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paul o' vendange

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  1. Food for thought. Early on, I used to go this way as well, but over the years I have come to consider the "liquid gold" the stock I've been carefully clarifying for days, and pressing on the solids contaminates that gold, in my view. I'd rather keep less, but more refined stock. If I don't press, I make time my friend, and allow a longer drip over the chinois. I do use the meaty scraps and meat (i.e., chicken or lamb) off the bones, but find it nearly flavorless. Hence, my presumption is that I have successfully extracted what I wanted into the finished stock. I will marry these scraps to other things to make something for employee meal, and given the addition of these other things (say, duxelles), it's o.k. But in terms of the stock, in my opinion, any further contribution of "flavor" will only be a diluting effect, beyond the impurities and negative effects I spoke of earlier. Just my experience. The impurities I'm talking about are fats/oils and proteinaceous material (such as blood and uncoagulated albumin) trapped in the tissues of the bones and meaty scraps, freshly released by pressing, that I do not want sitting in my stock.
  2. I don't press on any stocks, shellfish stocks included, for the reasons discussed. My Américaine, for instance, is formed from a strong lobster fumet, shallots, garlic, wine, cognac, tomato, saffron, cream. I use the coral in coral butter, which is used to enrich accompanying things - risotto, or a roast-fennel timbale; and the par-roasted lobster is finish-poached in a tarragon beurre-monté; the fumet itself is not pressed and is as clear as I can make it. I am a fanatic for getting the pure extract of a given animal, going for "clean" flavors, and give up yield for this end result. For large-boned stocks, like veal, I do as HKDave says - Day one, I do a strong stock; Day 2, I do a remouillage; day 3, I marry the two and reduce. However it seems Chris is asking a different question - he is accepting lack of clarity, and wondering whether additional flavor will result from pressing. My short answer, with no scientific evidence but only experience to offer, concurs with FatGuy and is "no, not much, in the way of flavor." Ideally you have rendered all the flavor you can into your stock and the remaining bones and aromatics have little left. However, I will often take scraps of meat off the bones - say, chicken - and make something out of it, with the help of other things, because there is some flavor left (say, ravioli for staff meal). But I think that with pressing, the marginal flavor you achieve is not worth it and you are adding a host of impurities that carry other, unwanted flavors.
  3. Hahahaha. Yep - but name it afterwards, not beforehand. Then it's the "genius combination by design."
  4. You may have tried it already, to no avail, but on many vertical preparations, the trick (I have heard, I'm strictly horizontal except for mashed potatoes) is to build the dish inside a length of fat PVC pipe, and then carefully remove the pipe. +++++ Boy, you guys are way too intellectual for me. .... ← I haven't posted on this, as I didn't want to say much more but rather hear from others...but I realize I convey an undue nod towards "emotionality." If most of my recipes, plate conceptions, menu/degustation conceptions will often start with some sort of "visceral" response to something, I must admit a very conscious intellectuality as well...if, for instance, I include the pomegranate glaze on a plate of venison rack, in drops and gently-stroked lines, as it sensually reminds me of pristine blood, I will also think very hard, strategically, on how I can best convey whatever impulse first brought me to something. Maybe, there is a triumvirate in place - an emotional or visceral impulse, an intellectual design, and a foundation of orthodoxy. Even these, though, are artificial distinctions. Many times, I will first consciously and intellectually wish to bring about something, and use other things to bear to flesh it out. On and on. ← I understand that you as a professional have a lot less leisure to wander aimlessly through farmer's markets and a lot more pressure to turn out a variety of consistently excellent products night after night, and I respect the vision you bring to your craft. I cook in a way that brings me the most pleasure, from the moment I wake up hungry until the time I'm munching leftovers while doing the dishes. I'm pretty sure it's not for everyone -- it's been known to drive my wife to distraction -- but it works for me. ← I think what you do is fantastic and to the extent I am able, I never, never want to lose that...this is what drives it all, to me, after all. I simply want to share what floats my boat and get paid enough to keep doing that. If I could, I would invite every customer into the kitchen to smell the unique smell of veal stock, after everything is just fully wetted and the simmer is on...braised lamb, when the lid is first removed...the beauty of our local rainbow chard, still in water, as we pull it for service...the smell of cured duck breast, just before hanging it for a few weeks to turn it into prosciutto. Anytime anyone asked "how do you do that," I printed off the recipe, sat down with them, and talked about how they could do it at home. Babette's Feast, as much as we possibly could. I just realized by your post how much I had talked about "emotionality," and don't think I was being fully straight as I do use my brains as much as I use my "heart," and in truth I think the distinctions between these two poles are a bit arbitrary. Your post helped me to clarify some things for myself.
  5. You may have tried it already, to no avail, but on many vertical preparations, the trick (I have heard, I'm strictly horizontal except for mashed potatoes) is to build the dish inside a length of fat PVC pipe, and then carefully remove the pipe. +++++ Boy, you guys are way too intellectual for me. I like to have a couple of glasses of wine on an empty stomach, grab the wife and wander around the market or the grocery store and see what jumps out at me -- Maybe a fish so fresh it needs to be slapped. Maybe a piece of beef so aged that it almost needs to embalmed. The last strawberries of the year. The first Meyer lemons. Fava or english peas so fresh that you bring a positive glee to the unsavory task of elbowing old ladies out of the way so you can grab the cutest and the best. Whatever the heck "this" is (veal breast? mung beans?) that looks good and we've never made. And then, once the menu is begun, free associating from flavor to flavor and texture to texture as the brain and palate balance the meal without conscious thought. Something crunchy to go with the sorbet. Tart greens to go with the braised beef. A soup, because we haven't had one in too long and the bewintered body craves the miracle vitamins only warm soup provides. Something irresistable because it's on sale, we'll work that in when we get home. Fruit after a rich meal and chocolate after a lean one. Or both, because then we can have piort And then off for some cheese. What's particularly runny today? Maybe something to melt on toast with soup. Or that gooey-looking Italian thing in the back, with the sheep and the cow on the wrapper. Sure, we'd love a taste... (For more formal dinners, surround yourself with cookbooks and wine, and run through roughly the same process, using recipes instead of raw ingredients). I don't like thinking too hard about dinner, I like flionging myself at it. I don't trust the application of intellectual rigor to food or to art or to love. I like it when guests call out of the blue or my son announcers his friends are staying for dinner, the wine fueled anarchy that ensues when six becomes ten and I like the dishes we have to improvise because the chicken can only be stretched so far. There are too many rules in life already. This boy just wants to have fun. ← I haven't posted on this, as I didn't want to say much more but rather hear from others...but I realize I convey an undue nod towards "emotionality." If most of my recipes, plate conceptions, menu/degustation conceptions will often start with some sort of "visceral" response to something, I must admit a very conscious intellectuality as well...if, for instance, I include the pomegranate glaze on a plate of venison rack, in drops and gently-stroked lines, as it sensually reminds me of pristine blood, I will also think very hard, strategically, on how I can best convey whatever impulse first brought me to something. Maybe, there is a triumvirate in place - an emotional or visceral impulse, an intellectual design, and a foundation of orthodoxy. Even these, though, are artificial distinctions. Many times, I will first consciously and intellectually wish to bring about something, and use other things to bear to flesh it out. On and on.
  6. Great post. Personally, I don't think it comes down to a zero-sum game between "emotion" and production of an end goal; I think it is finding a means to marry the two; to bring that "emotion" fully in, while being able to do it consistently, meal after meal. I made every effort to give over to the cooks - none of whom had done this type of cooking before - the importance of a few things: that we seek to clarify, extend, preserve essential flavor and character of the materials we used, not be wizards in unduly manipulating them; that the simple things throughout the day, simply but rigorously performed, adding up to our mise for service, were the bedrock we built ourselves on; and, to learn the principles underlying what we were trying to accomplish in the myriad things we did - why marriages, why these cuts, difference between a gently sweet carmelization from an easy simmer, v. the too-intense mouthfeel and character of a (lazy) rapid boiloff, etc. - rather than a rote replication of what I wrote and showed them. It was my deepest desire that they own their experience for themselves (the same for our front of house), by paying attention to the minutae of their senses. Once they "got" that, the craft of what we did, to the extent we had it, was built on some solid things, I would say. The desire to convey pleasure, through a deeply visceral and emotional connection to every stage of the process, the sense of "play," was built on a program of daily, orthodox discipline. Actually, truth be told, I am all too fully aware the limitations of my ability when compared to the greatness of the raw materials I use, and the greatness of masters that preceed me or who now live to make their mark. I am embarrassed by the notion of inserting myself in too much between food and guest. I have heard it said that Andre Soltner once voiced: "There is no new food." From my personal framework, that is wholly true. I only offer my sensibilities, the fervent desire to master fundamentals, and the deep conviction that if I don't find a way to give this over, I might as well stay home. Sorry for the rant. This is what we aimed for, anyway. I am reminded of Konstantin Stanislavsky (who I once played, in another iteration as an actor; I'm likely butchering it, it has been decades now): "There are great actors, and there are poor actors - but there are few truthful actors." Stanislavki was consumed with this same dilemma - waiting for the gods to strike down greatness, fine - but how to do it on a nightly basis? or, What TJ said.
  7. Uh, man, sold! I have a duck in the fridge, waiting for a prosciutto and confit split...some of that fat, however, will have to go to daube, a la Gascogne.
  8. For anyone interested, Michael was kind enough to point out Jeff Cerciello's "reduced wine" method is in Bouchon - the boeuf bourgignon recipe.
  9. Huh. There are quite a few sources (click here for a few) that debunk the notion of "cooking off the alcohol." I'm not sure that two hours of simmering the wine before marinating is a step I'd want to add.... ← Interesting. I don't know that I'd want to simmer for several hours either. What I do is borrowed directly from TFL - bring it to simmer, flame it, agitate it, and keep flaming it in repeated cycles until no more flaming results. I'd be curious to see how much remains after such a process. Since wine typically contains 12%-14% a.b.v., next time I do it, I will measure before and after and check results (with some correction for the few minutes of the simmer). Thinking on it, I am certain not all goes out, as with repeated flame cycles, the solution is more dilute of alcohol. Still, curious. Edit: Oops! Posted before seeing Michael Ruhlman's post above. I'd like to read the LA Times article. Additonally, Michael, is it possible to provide details on Jeff's reduced RW method? Reduce with aromats, then add everything to the braise? Or strain, and braise only with the liquid (I'm guessing as much as can be extracted from the aromats takes place during the reduction - but would love to hear).
  10. paul o' vendange


    The last ones I had were much more green than yellow, (and extremely knobbly) and they were the most fragrant and aromatic I ever tasted. ← That's interesting. I've not had that experience. From my use over the years, the green-skinned ones are much more muted in aroma compared to the yellow or golden-skinned quinces. Additionally, since quince is naturally extremely high in tannins, I find that ripening allows the development of the complex of sugars that offset this astringent character, and lend flavor to the finished fruit; green-skinned quinces are missing this balancing sugar content; so I don't use them. Additionally, I don't find that picked, green-skinned quinces improve with time. They maintain the character as they are bought. I'm not certain, but I'm guessing, that natural enzymatic conversion of starch to sugar ceases or considerably slows on picking, but this is just a stab in the dark. I only know that unlike other fruits (bananas, for an obvious example), I don't find a further ripening of character if I begin with greenish fruit. Just my experience, of course, and everyone's mileage may differ.
  11. paul o' vendange


    It's been hit or miss for us our way as well. I look for intensely aromatic quinces - if they aren't, they will not better with time, in my experience. I also look for bright, yellow or yellow-to-gold skin. Greenish-hued skin is unacceptable, and will yield the blah-taste (at best) you mention.
  12. paul o' vendange


    That doesn't seem unduly long to me. Pork belly up to 4 days, whole loin up to 5, and I've not had a problem. However, your cure seems like a really, really heavy load to me...my normal cures for larger cuts and longer brining periods are (American, will convert) approximately 125 grams sugar, 85 grams salt per 4 L water; I don't think I've seen a cure more dense than 275-280 g total (salt and sugar) per 4L water, but this may just be my experience. For small or thin pieces of meat, I opt for a denser cure and a shorter period; for bigger pieces (such as whole loin), I opt for a longer period and more dilute cure, in order to allow even diffusion throughout the meat.
  13. adeguilio, I can only offer my personal experience, which most recently included mounting the first French bistro in our region of the United States, to great acclaim - for the first several months, only to watch my livelihood crash and burn. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt, as if anything, I learned no one rule applies. Anyway, here it is. 1. If you can do it with other people's money, by all means, do it, with certain provisos in place. Firstly, you're right - most funders, whether equity investors or debt lenders, will not want to foot the entire bill. Most will want to see you are willing to put your butt on the line. The exception may be in something I may about to enter into - someone who knows your work, believes in your experience, tenacity, etc., and believes it will fly - a good investment, vanity or otherwise - and will float the venture. But this is very hard to come by. You are right to ask yourself - am I willing to risk this? If not, why? If not, and I am willing to divest some ownership to others - how comfortable are you listening to others, particularly when they may or may not know what is truly best for your business, though, with a high equity stake or debt-position, they may be fairly strident in their views (this happened in our case. In our case, our supposed BIDCO/incubation lender knew absolutely zero about the restaurant business, and only knew how to read a P & L statement - making strong recommendations re: cheapening costs to a formula they read - which would have killed our venture a lot earlier than it did. More on this, perhaps, another time). Bottom line, there are never absolutes, but tradeoffs. If you risk your own money, or credit, you have the right to be Imperial in your decisions. Other people's money, you have to be comfortable negotiating strategies, or being clear and compelling in dictating your own. 2. Again, no absolutes. But be mindful that a debt note has to be paid - and if you have a stronger than predicted seasonality, or egregiously bad exogenous shocks to your local economy (yes, again, personal experience), keep in mind you owe these notes regardless. Investors, especially "friendly" investors in for the long haul, have a much longer leash and are forgiving of the inevitable valleys in your climb to solvency. However, again, you have the split-ownership areas to negotiate discussed above. If I were doing it again? Knowing how tough it is to return a profit, especially over the first several years, I'd line up friendly investors and limit my debt funding. I never, ever want to be extended as I was in this venture. 3. Lease terms should be fairly standard in your area. Try to find a comparable - not necessarily a restaurant, but something with like square footage, like traffic, etc., - and estimate. It was our experience that we could tell when our Landlord was trying to gouge us. Also, if you have restaurants that are not in your same niche, generally, but have a rough comparability in terms of s.f., etc., I have found they are friendly to your needs - particularly if you are a customer. Keep in mind, too, that things like included equipment, assistance with buildout/renovation, etc., will affect the final figure. One thing you might try is a graduated lease, or, if you and you're landlord are game, a base lease with increases pegged to profits. You may or may not realize the profits, but if your Landlord is willing to risk such an "investment," during your first critical period, your lease will be lower.
  14. Dave, what follows may be much more than you bargained for, but here it is. Given the shoulder cut, I would opt for a braise. While I usually aim for integral sauces, among many others, I do like (not all at the same time!) the flavor of black pepper, juniper, madeira, pomegranate, red wine, and a host of acids - red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, and verjus - with venison of various species. The poivrade suggestion came from some playing with James Peterson's classic poivrade (see Sauces), where instead of vinegar, I use verjus and pomegranate for acid and additional flavor components. If you don't want to go the pomegranate-poivrade route described below, you could just use the marinade, omit the verjus in the marinade, and braise normally (though a special caution to low and slow applies - venison will be leaner), perhaps with a strip of bayonne ham or prosciutto, browned and layered on top of your (marinated) mirepoix. You can then fine strain/chinois the jus, and have handy a portion of demi-glace, verjus or sherry vinegar (my preference, if using vinegar, unless you went with a red wine marinade - then, really good red wine vinegar), cracked black pepper and cracked juniper berries. Retain some portion of the jus to glaze the braised shoulder in the hot oven, the other portion, reduce and clarify, using demi-glace, if desired (adds, in my mind, a sweetish component in addition to that irreplaceable unctuousness - but then, I use a ton of mirepoix in my demi-glace), verjus or sherry vinegar, as desired, and a 10-15 minute simmer of the black peppercorn and juniper berries. If going the poivrade route, here it is. A braise, using the marinade, below; the resulting jus can then be married to the other ingredients to make a finished poivrade. I felt the gentle acidity of the verjus and pomegranate married well with the meat, and pepper and juniper, well, great with venison generally. When I use the poivrade, it is generally for a rack (with no braising), but the marinade-into-jus from the braise should be, I would think, all the better. Marinade: 5 oz. carrots, 1" dice 5 oz. onions, 1" 3 ounces leek, white/light green portion only, 1" 1 shallot, coarsely chopped 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped 2 1/2 cups white wine - (sauvignon blanc, or one with decent acidity) 1.5 cups Verjus bouquet garni (2) boned venison shoulder (reserve bones for below, if available) Kosher Salt Black Pepper Bring wine to simmer over medium high heat and flame, agitating pan and reigniting until no further flaming results. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool, with cheesecloth over pan; place rest of ingredients in pan, including venison shoulder, and marinate overnight in cooler. Remove shoulder, pat it dry, salt and (lightly) pepper it; allow to rest for 1 hour with seasoning. Sear in pan over medium heat on all sides. Add marinade (including vegetables, but discard "marinated" bouquet garni and use a fresh garni for braise). Cover tightly and braise as per your usual method until tender. I would leave braise together with its (strained) jus overnight, or for a couple days, then use reserved jus in the below sauce. Sauce: 3 oz. onion, 1” dice 3 oz. carrot, 1” dice 3 tbsp canola or peanut oil 1 lb venison leg trimmings, cubed 1”, neck bones, or shoulder bones (from your shoulder, if not boned) cleaved to 1", or some combination of meat and bones 3 sprigs thyme ½ bay leaf 1 small bunch parsley Brown meat or bones over medium high heat in oil; be careful not to blacken. Remove meat or bones, reduce heat to medium and add onions and carrots, rendering their moisture and using the moisture to deglaze and scrape pan clean. Add rest of ingredients. ***1st liquid deglaze/glaze*** 3 oz. Verjus 3 oz. w/w 5 ounce POM brand pomegranate juice (or any other really good, fresh pomegranate juice) Add the above liquids and deglaze pan. Allow glaze to reform over bones/meat. ***2nd deglaze*** 2 cups veal stock 1 quart venison stock 2 cups reserved jus from above braise 10 black peppercorns, freshly (coarsely) crushed in mortar and pestle 10 juniper berries, freshly (coarsely) crushed in mortar and pestle Add veal stock, venison stock and reserved jus to pan and deglaze. Reduce heat and allow to simmer, skimming religiously throughout to remove any accumulated fat and impurities, for about 3 hours or until a good, rich taste develops. Reduce heat, add peppercorns and juniper berries, and simmer very gently for 10-15 minutes. Pass through china cap, then chinois (or fine sieve) into new saucepan. *** Final Addition*** ½ cup reserved jus ½ cup venison stock ½ cup pomegranate molasses (merely, POM or pure pomegranate juice reduced to a syrup over very low heat) Add above ingredients, and simmer over medium low or low heat until to sauce consistency, skimming continually free of any impurities and passing, if necessary, through chinois. Just before serving, finish by whisking in 4 tbsp. beurre monté. I'd recommend moistening braised shoulder with sauce, rather than pooling sauce and plating meat on top. I'd a huge fan of venison with (wine and vinegar-braised) red cabbage, mushrooms, spaetzle, gnocchi (Parisienne), squash - done any number of ways. I once did a trio of timbales, but love the brilliant color of braised red cabbage set against the orange of, say, delicata or butternut. Of course, I will eat a nice sage gnocchi with anything. Hope you enjoy, if you go this way!
  15. Actually, for the cod, I wasn't thinking papillote, but that would be great too. I was thinking of one-pot cooking: a shallow poach, stew or brothy-main course given its texture. Also, tempura batter or dredged in rice flour, deep fried: crunchy, moistened with a good, sweetish broth, served in a bowl with accompanying vegetables poached in the same broth, or my favorite, goma-ae. Chef Tsuji describes salt-grilling - shio-yaki - as a method of marinating; it involves pre-salting fish by any one of a set of salting techniques, allowing to rest, then grilling, by any one of a skewer-and-grill techniques. My emphasis (italics) comes from why I love Japanese ways generally, and Japanese cuisine specifically. The simplest thing - salting - codified into a way, suited to a purpose, sublimated to excellence by honoring the raw material. One example may serve. For a sea bass salt-grill (Suzuki shio-yaki), he recommends fairly prodigious salting using the furi-jo technique: sprinkle salt onto a cutting board from one's hand, positioned about 14" above cutting board. Place filet, skin side down, and allow salt to "sift through your fingers onto the fish," presumably from the same height (which, I'm guessing, gives precisely the best salt density-dispersal(!)). Allow 40-60 minutes for salt to penetrate. For salt-grilling, Chef Tsuji indicates three things are key: skin should be crisp; fish just to done and no more; and served and eaten hot. For the sea bass, he describes using a "flat-skewer" (hira-gushi) technique, which is a way to thread several pieces of fish filet on a set of skewers - inserted cross-grain through the meat, in the middle of the flesh; thereby, preventing flaky-grain fishes from falling through into the fire. Chef Tsuji then goes on to describe the method - over a really hot fire, skin side first, to about 60% done (about 5 minutes), until "the flesh on the upper side of the filet will begin to bead with pinkish sweat; skin facing the fire will be crisp golden brown." Turn and continue grilling until done, about 2 minutes. The chef also includes extensive information on what sides would best go with what fishes, given levels of fat and oil, acids in sides, etc. Really a great read. I hope you are able to grab the book soon.
  16. Well, outside of the obvious - nigiri, etc., others you perhaps have already thought of, immediately coming to mind, include grilled teriyaki for the salmon (as I could live on teriyaki); one-pot for the cod, given its texture, and the host of techniques ("salt-grilling," steamed, and foil-wrapped - akin to papillote) discussed by Shizuo Tsuji in Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art. Do you have the book? Highly recommended - watashi wa Aikido no seito desu - Shihan no uchideshi desu - and while uchideshi, as a French cook, I was usually requested to make dojo meals. I am grateful I learned something of the Japanese culinary way there, and Japanese Cooking was very helpful. Good luck!
  17. paul o' vendange


    Agreed. In my mind, there is nothing quite like the aroma of quince - intensely floral, pear and apple. When I smell it, I am in my favorite time of year, the fall. Just a few of the many things I love to do with quinces: I love to poach them in a sugar poach (with a scraped vanilla bean). I often then caramelize them with a touch of brown sugar and butter, (easy) flame with Calvados, and serve with pork (braised shanks with red cabbage and quinces, or pan-roast, double-chop, with parsnip puree and quinces). I also served a fall charcuterie with, among other things, moulard or muscovy duck prosciutto, brioche and quince jelly; also, seared foie gras with same accompaniment. Or a quince tarte tatin.
  18. You know, people asked me where I learned...and I always told them my mother's kitchen. She wasn't a distinctly French cook. But we grew up with, among other things, a kind of artichokes barigoule, lamb stews with wine, and so forth. Though much of what she grew up was out of Betty Crocker, our line's French blood found its way through generations of mothers, I came to fully realize on mounting my own venture. It occurred to me how much our food is our past, however latent. Wonderful post, Dave, as usual, thanks. I think you are asking the question that moves beyond "what drives us" to "what is the purpose of dining," a question I have asked myself over and over again in refining what I want to accomplish.
  19. Hahah - Yep, I sure did. May we never lose this. Funny - there was thought behind the name of my bistro, Waterstone; stone, which held a sense of seriousness of purpose, I think, yet water - light, fanciful, dancing, and not taking ourselves too seriously. I error too far on the former side, and I will try to keep Grandma's dictum always close by. That was priceless.
  20. Ha! Wow, that's great. It is always interesting when stuff like this happens - I forget what it was, but something about Chefs Bocuse and Guerard, I think, coming up with something at the same time, with absolutely no cross pollination -not a movement (i.e., nouvelle or minceur) but literally, a plate, and it was only discovered after the fact that both had come up with something at the same time, utterly independently. After my agonization over relevé, I am not even attempting to remember what it was...but I think this is fascinating when it happens.
  21. Karen and Judith, thank you for your wonderful, thoughtfully generous posts. I am really intrigued by both your approaches (and would really love to eat your food!). I love the sense of play embedded in a solid culinary sense. I am not all that playful a cook, striving all these years for the mastery of a certain orthodoxy, so both of you have provided a wonderful vista. Thanks. Oh, Judith, by the way - You bet! I really have no preconceived idea - I am just fascinated how cooks come to what they do, and you put forward a beautiful example. Those artichokes look really good....For a winemaker dinner last year, one of the courses was a pan-roast halibut with artichoke vinaigrette, and a couple of anchovy fritters...your artichokes would have been a wonderful component.
  22. Hi everyone - Inspired by some nice conversations on a France thread, I have been thinking a bit on what first grabs me when I cook, in terms of what I wish to convey to my guests by a given plate, or menu; and I am curious how others go about their process. I'll start. Whenever I begin thinking of a plate, it is an emotional start, with broad strokes, visceral connections, senses lit up that I seek to pass on, and little else - it may be a play of colors in my mind, or the seasonal, sense connection to a certain aroma, but this is where it starts. I use these broad strokes to continually go inwards, down to the execution of recipes and techniques - but it all starts with an emotional "theme," and a desire to infectiously pass on the first emotive impulse surrounding the memories, aromas, images, etc., that come to mind. One example may serve. At my former bistro, located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, hunting life is very much a part of the autumn our way. While I love venison, the deer up here have a tough time - surviving on scrub pine, and little else, during the long, cold months; their life is harsh, and their taste is equally rough, tasting of resin and little else. I sought to provide some experience of the fall, while elevating what venison could be in people's minds. So - seared Cervena rack, delicata squash "barquettes," braised red cabbage; dressed with venison sauce, and lighting the plate, a duo of glazes - a pomegranate syrup (nothing more than reduced, clarified fresh juice); and a syrup made from juniper-infused late harvest riesling, highly reduced and clarified. The pomegranate - sheening, bright crimson - reminded of blood, of the hunt, of where this animal came from; and the riesling was golden-hued, reminding of fall leaves and the holiday season. Because of its play of color, I personally called it my "party plate," but I think it would have been more aptly called "a desire to pass on a walk through the fall woods." I'd like to invite anyone reading this - what drives your cooking? How do you compose a plate, or a menu?
  23. Well, good morning Dave, and thank you for your kindness! However, I just read your recipe and it looks fantastic. I am certain your shanks are equal to mine...I wish I could claim something special; but as with all my food, I claim nothing but a keen desire to master simplicity. The shanks themselves are salted and peppered for several hours, seared well, set on a bed of very lightly caramelized mirepoix, and moistened with chicken stock, and a far lesser portion of lamb stock (too much, and I find the final jus well, too much, given the remouillage below). Good amounts of romas nestled amongst the shanks, thyme. 275F for several hours, then pulled and laid out; jus clarified, then split into two - one part, used as a remouillage for lamb neck bones, more romas, more thyme, some garlic, to a resulting sauce; the other portion, at service, used to glaze the shank in a hot oven. Between you, Lucy, Felice, and others, I am very warmed by your reception and grateful for your graciousness. Your work on this and your related sites is nothing short of inspirational. Thank you. I would love to pay a visit.
  24. Lucy, thank you so very much. Your beautiful pictures and foodblog Lyonnaise of a few years ago sustained me even while mounting Waterstone, and I would love to visit when we get there. I am very appreciative, and will keep you posted. Best, Paul
  25. Fantastic, thank you, Felice. I'm afraid I am wandering through the prickly fields of melancholic nostalgia. Some things from my former French bistro (as French as I know it, from a seed planted 35 years ago - M. Pepin, merci): A starter, a finisher: Onion tart, petit mache salad; chocolate rum torte, caramel sauce: Seared Ahi, with roast garlic jus, shoestring potatoes: Lamb shank - as I served it in the restaurant, braised, with confits of garlic and tomato, thyme oil, an integral sauce made from lamb, and great northern bean-gratin: A trio of quails: stuffed, with dried fall fruits, armagnac-quail jus, braised kale: Finally, an interior of our place: And part of the team of professionals we valued highest of all: -Paul
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