adventures in craft beer and real food

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Why I've been off the air for so long...

Sorry for not posting more lately. I've heard the grumbling from the front and back of the room alike, but I have a good excuse ... I swear!

I've had to work extra lately, and in my spare time I've been busy in my kitchen. Namely, I:
1. Made another two gallons of chicken stock (fond blanc de volaille). It's way better than my last batch. There are probably two reasons there... First, I used three chickens instead of two. Second, I bought my chickens at Whole Foods. Can't beat that free range flavor. I also was much more careful to preserve its clarity. It's still not great because I pushed down on my meat and vegetables to attain a higher yield, but I covered for a little bit by filtering it all through coffee filters.
2. Celebrated my brother's wedding. Congratulations again!
3. Did some entertaining. For my friend ES, I presented three courses based upon the color red. First, I served up a panaché de pois et petits carottes dans consommé (peas and baby -- red -- carrots in consommé). It was pretty good. My first time making consommé, and I was stunned by how easy it is. Just throw some egg whites in a stock with some extra mirepoix and you just wait and baste the raft. I threw in oignon brûlée to get a deeper color. I based this course on what I ate at L'Ecole in NYC last summer. That dish was almost just an excuse to serve knife cut practice, though...

Next I served flank steak Argenteuil et pommes sautées, sauce Béarnaise (flank steak with asparagus and sautéd potato with Bernaise sauce). I made this dish by sautéing a large dice of two potatoes in clarified butter until nicely browned on all sides. Plated them. Then I covered the potatoes with a number of evenly cut asparagus spears and some Bernaise sauce. Finally, I browned some Priske flank steak, and then cooked it to 135°F (high end of medium rare) in the oven. I sliced it into several strips, each about a centimeter thick, and arranged them on top of the asparagus as to form a star (more like an asterisk). This dish was inspired by a trip to L'Etoile where they served this meal with a cabernet reduction jus and new potatoes.

And finally, I made soufflé glacé aux fraises (strawberry souffle semifreddo) for dessert. I took the recipe from (where else?) the Lutéce cookbook. Basically, you make whipped cream and a mousse (but cook the sugar to 200-something degrees first!) and then fold them together with a strained strawberry puree. The recipe also has you prepare some basic almond pastries and place them inside of the souffle dish to give it some extra texture, flavor, and mechanical support. I did the recipe one better by taking some butter, cooking it until it was well browned and nutty smelling, and poured it over a whole bunch of whole almonds. After a sprinkling of salt, I roasted the nuts for approximately ten minutes in my oven. Then I removed the skins on the almonds and chopped them very finely. Fold this into a mousse, spoon into circles, and bake. Some mousse-cream-strawberry is put into a souffle dish first, followed by a pastry, followed by more mixture, followed by another pastry, and then you make it stand out the top of the dish to make it look like a souffle. All very cute. After everything is assembled, the whole thing is frozen.

ES brought a pretty tasty côtes du Rhône to drink, but I already threw out the bottle and I didn't drink it under my standardized conditions anyway ... so no review of the wine.

4. Went strawberry picking at out CSA's farm in Evansville, WI. It was very pretty, and the farmers were very friendly people. It was nice meeting them and knowing where our food comes from. And I imagine that they like knowing where their produce is going, instead of just receiving checks in the mail. The day was overcast, and some thunder storms were predicted later in the day, so the turnout was quite low. It was also nice meeting the farm's security -- I saw two cats running around, both of which seemed to like all the activity and attention.

We made ten pints of strawberry jam and four pints of strawberry freezer jam. Just tonight, we had some of the latter over some ice cream. Delicious!

Apparently, some of my relatives are already placing orders for jam for raspberry season!

And with that summary, I hope to return to my normal update schedule of one to two posts per week.

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