Wow

I am so very, very lucky to be able to head down to the city on short notice and have dinner at Kris & Ken’s house; they always have the best food, wine, and company possible and thus my gustatory horizons never fail to be widened. Wednesday night was no different. Herewith the summary:

Aperitif: 2005 Wegeler riesling Wehlener Sonnenuhr

Sea bass with daikon sprouts and olive-olive oil sauce
1997 Jose Michel Brut Champagne

Salad with wood pigeon and (my) duck prosciutto
1989 Clos des Papes

Filet of beef wrapped in bacon, twice-roasted potatoes
2000 Roty Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru “Les Fontenys”

Cheeses
1988 Jaboulet Hermitage “La Chapelle”

After
1989 Moulin Touchais Coteaux de Layon (my contribution)

The champagne was a treat. Delicious.
The Clos des Papes was sublime. Unbelievable. Ken: “An experienced lover.”
The Gevrey-Chamb was not the right wine to follow the CDP, but over time it softened and got kind of funky. (Average white band vs. P-Funk funky in comparison.)

We tasted the Hermitage blind, and I actually guessed it, but opened my mouth just as Kris told us, so I don’t think anyone believed me. A weird year, and it makes me very excited to open the 1989 that I bought in Paris back when the dollar was worth somewhat more than toilet paper. We all enjoyed the Moulin Touchais, even though it’s more of a spicy first course wine than a dessert wine due to the extreme acidity which balances out the sugar.

Overall, an exceptional night. Tasting these great wines with some real age on them in the company of people who have such astonishing palates is an extraordinary pleasure and privilege. I have to give Mary’s new wine venture a plug at this juncture; for anyone who’s looking to find a superlative price to quality ratio in their wine choices, check out the just-launched Thoreau Wine Society.

Canard

It’s like Thanksgiving leftovers, but nothing on the plate is actually from that meal except the cranberry-wine reduction. The rest of it is a duck breast, seared in a pan, along with zucchini “latkes” and brown rice with kale cooked in the rendered fat (this is actually a zucchini picked AGES ago- before the first frost- and stored in the bottom of the fridge; I’ve slowly been using it up.) Meat juices and some of the peach-habañero-lime basil chutney added final flavors. A 2002 Jadot Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er cru “La Dominode” was a pretty snuggly companion to this high/low hybrid. Plus the new square plates are allowing for awesome new compositions, although this one is a tad crowded. So there’s that.

Alla Carbonara

Fettucine. Salt pork. Quail eggs. Cheap chard from the fridge. Hit the spot.

Thanksgiving Notes & Pictures

The numbers:
8 adults, 11 courses, 7 bottles, 6 hours.

The pictures:

Duck and pear:

Melons are long since out of season, so these are local organic red bartlett pears. This duck took about three months to cure, but was SOOOO worth the wait.

Leek & Gruyère tart:

A dribble of truffle oil and grating of Indonesian long pepper on top put this one into orbit.

Celery root-leek-potato soup:

Local milk, veggies from the garden, and passed through a tamis for ultra-velvety texture. Wild chives for garnish.

Salad:

These frostproof greens are making a big difference to our quality of life right about now.

Scallop:

The kimchi juice firms up the scallops a bit, and gives them a rich flavor. I cooked the eggs in a bit of smoked duck fat.

Squash broth with ham “ravioli”:

I got the gelatin-filtered squash broth idea from Derrick, and added the smoked ham ravioli (glued together with activa) to make it more substantial. Great (even better than the scallops) with the Gewurtz.

Marrow bone w/buckwheat “risotto”:

A nice combination of wintry flavors: fat, grain, intense meat reduction. Another particularly good wine match with the old Burg.

Plating the gnocchi (picture by John):

After boiling, I browned them in the rendered duck fat with sage leaves. This “Thanksgiving on a plate” idea worked really well; it was the essence of bird, creamy potato, sweet tangy cranberry, and wild greens, and satisfied Christine’s desire for something traditional.

Duck confit:

No pictures of the cheese. Sorry. Here’s the panna cotta, though:

This tasted like essence of pumpkin chiffon pie (also to please my wife,) with a super-tangy sauce that did a good job of conjuring the lemon-stuck-with-cloves flavor I was shooting for.

Last, the tart:

Out of focus- but by then, so was I- a nice way to finish like we started, with pears and crust, and an ice cream I’m pretty proud of. The port added a wonderful hazelnut complexity to the whole thing.

On the whole, it came out much as I had hoped. Everyone was thoroughly full and satisfied without being stuffed, and there were hardly any leftovers to deal with (except for duck bones to make soup.) It hit some traditional notes, went to some newer places, and stayed pretty solidly local with the ingredients.

Thanksgiving Menu

Home-cured duck prosciutto, red bartlett pear, maple-balsamic glaze
Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru brut rosé

Leek, gruyère, and pine nut tart

Celery root-leek-potato soup

2001 Guigal Hermitage blanc

Winter salad of mâche, claytonia, minutina
Walnut-Sherry vinaigrette

Kimchi juice-marinated diver scallop with braised pan di zucchero
Quail egg, guanciale, kimchi, pan sauce
2001 Lucien Albrecht Gewurtztraminer Cuvée Marie

Ham “ravioli” with squash-apple-walnut filling
Clear squash consommé, togarashi
Beef marrow bone
Buckwheat “risotto”, beef-saffron reduction
1983 Joseph Drouhin Bonnes-Mares

Duck confit
Sweet potato gnocchi, cranberry-wine reduction, nettle purée
2000 Carver Sutro Petite Sirah

Local cheeses:
Bayley Hazen (VT,) Kunik (NY,) Toussaint (NY)
1997 Teofilo Reyes Ribera del Duero

Pumpkin panna cotta
Yuzu-clove syrup, lemon balm
1999 Paul Delesvaux “Sélection de Grains Nobles” Coteaux du Layon

Wine-poached pear and chocolate tart
Applesauce-Calvados ice cream
1991 Dow’s Vintage Porto

Close Enough

I think turkey is overrated. We can get good heirloom varieties up here, but lacking the means to deep-fry one or the patience to smoke one out in the cold and rain I’m opting out. Even smoked or fried it’s still pretty bland, and so big that you have to eat it for days after. To me, the holiday is about family, eating, and gratitude with a strong focus on seasonal ingredients, not about eating what everyone else eats just for the sake of tradition. So bring on the duck confit.

Since we’re not having turkey for Thanksgiving, tonight I made up for it with turkey burgers (seasoned with herbs, garlic, arugula, wine, duck fat- because it’s too damn lean- and togarashi) served with cranberry ketchup (cranberries, a couple of canned tomatoes, vinegars- cider, balsamic- and maple syrup.) Kimchi and beet pickles on the side. Organic spelt English muffin. More of the Jaboulet Vaqueyras. Basta.

Buckwheat Two Ways

I got a couple of things done today, chief among which the ham ravioli- smoked ham glued together with activa and with a filling of acorn squash, apple, pine nuts, onion, ginger, spices, and an egg yolk. There were a few left, and some of the buckwheat mixture, which, like risotto, made great supplì with a bit of aged gruyère and an egg-cornmeal coating. So for an appetizer, to christen the new small plates (it’s like freakin’ Christmas all up in here) I put a buckwheat ball with arugula and a ham dumpling with maple/balsamic sauce on the oval ones and then dutifully took a picture:

The ham ravioli were good- sort of like inside-out gyoza, very sweet and savory at the same time, with the unifying magic of pork. Next was dashi broth with soba, the ham trimmings, and a side of blanched kale:

The wine was a Susana Balbo “Crios” torrontes, which goes with all things Asian-inflected and otherwise, provided they’re not too spicy, given its amazing lychee flavors and good acidity.

Braiseworthy

For some reason, this came together perfectly- flavors, textures, and portion sizes were all just right. Crosscut lamb shanks braised with mirepoix and a bit of lemon and wine until they were nice and tender. Parsnip roasted with whole garlic, rosemary, oil, and coriander seeds until crispy/creamy (and so sweet after some frost.) Buckwheat “risotto” simmered with lemon, savory, marjoram, parsley and scallion. I tossed a winter salad of mâche, spinach, and some of the winter lettuces that are still soldiering on. It all worked famously, and we drank a 1999 Prunaio which is still pretty tannic, but with more time could be something special. It’s officially braising season, and this was a nice beginning.

Egg Drop Soup

In a combined effort to make room in the fridge and also make us something healthy, I wrangled diverse leftovers into a decent egg drop soup for lunch. Scallops, tofu, chicken broth, liquid from half a can of tomatoes, garlic, ginger, scallions and two beaten eggs added up to something that did not taste at all like leftovers. I sprinkled some of the kabocha seed-togarashi gomasio I made yesterday for Thanksgiving on top to finish, and we added sambal oelek to taste since I can’t make anything too spicy. Now there’s some space for all the things yet to be made before Thursday.

Oy, Again With The Pasta

One of the problems with Thanksgiving is that it’s easy to eat badly for days beforehand since all the time and effort in the kitchen are in the service of delayed gratification. So this evening, after much toil on prep, I whipped up a quick roux-thickened, pancetta enriched milk and tomato sauce with some minced dried porcini, dried tomatoes, garlic and herbs and tossed penne in it, followed by a bag of our frozen peas. I finished it with a bit of white truffle oil and a grating of breadcrumbs (from a really stale hunk of bread) that I actually meant to stir into the sauce for some extra thickening and textural interest. Simple, and hearty- kind of like staff dinner. Tomorrow I’m going to try to spend a bit more time on our food.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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