70 Steps To Foie Gras Torchon

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1. Receive a free lobe of foie gras from Mirepoix USA.

2. Post about it on your website.

3. Consider your options. (Option 1: Go as Foie Gras Head to that Halloween party; Option 2: Sear it and serve it; Option 3: Make a torchon from The French Laundry Cookbook.)

4. Decide on Option Two.

5. Meet Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune and ask her what she would do with a lobe of foie gras if she received one in the mail. Hear her say, “I’d make the recipe that appeared last summer in Saveur where you cure it in salt.” [This is the recipe. I think the article’s by her sister.]

6. Decide to make that recipe.

7. Consult Meg who has also received a lobe of foie gras. Let her convince you not to make that recipe, but to make Option 3: the torchon from The French Laundry cookbook. She says, “It’s totally worth it.” She says she’s going to make torchon with hers.

8. Decide to make that recipe.

9. Challenge her to a Torchon Tournament.

9. Begin the process.

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To Cut An Artichoke

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For months now I have watched Mario Batali cut artichokes on “Molto Mario,” demanding the participation of this three guests and charging that “it’s really easy and really worthwhile.” What’s infuriating (but admirable) is that he takes the time, each time, to explain the process to his audience. The religious viewer is left irritated at the repetition: “Ok, Mario,” you want to say, “I know how to cut an artichoke.”

I said that very thing last week watching him on Tivo when I had an idea. “I have an idea,” I said to myself. “Let’s buy some artichokes and see if I really do know how to cut an artichoke.”

And thus this post was born.

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As Easy As [Pie]

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Bad pie makers, have I got a tip for you. Buy this month’s Gourmet magazine and follow their technique for making the perfect pie crust. I am a terrible pie maker and I worked up the courage to follow their recipe after too many bad experiences and guess what? This crust was killer. Without any bidding, people who tried this pie commented: “Wow, the crust is awesome. It’s so flaky and buttery and great.”

Here’s a quick visual tour of what you do. You put flour, salt, shortening and butter into a bowl:

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You work it together with the tips of your fingers until it resembles coarse meal. Once it does you add 5 Tbs of water (if you’re making a double crust) and squeeze a bit in your hand. If it stays together then there’s enough water, if it falls apart you need more. This is what it looked like when it had enough water:

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Then there’s the cool novel part: you dump the dough out on to a board and you separate it into eight pieces. Then you take each piece with the heel of your hand and you shmush it out so you distribute the fat. You press it forward twice and then you scrape it all together and make a big ball. Then you divide that in half, flatten each half into a disc, wrap and refrigerate. Then you see to your pie filling.

On this particular day (it being Thursday) I had blueberries:

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I didn’t have the other components that the pie recipe called for (tapioca, lemon juice) but I didn’t care. Like Eric Cartman, I wanted some pah. So I mixed the blueberries with 1 1/2 cups brown sugar and let them rest and then when I rolled out the pie dough, I placed the pie dough in the glass pie plate and added the blueberries.

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Mmm, doesn’t that look so homey, homey?

Then I rolled out the other piece so badly that the pie top rejected the notion of pi, refusing to be a circle and deciding to become a clumpy, blumpy mess. I decided to spare you the horror of what it looked like when I plopped it on top. But no matter!

Into the oven it went:

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And out it came, a perfect pie:

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So the moral of the story is, go buy yourself a Gourmet magazine, read their pie recipe, get yourself some fruit and even if you mess up when you roll it out still bake it anyway and you will be glad. These are the profound directives of a formerly bad pie maker.

Once again, I urge you to make rice pudding with leftover rice from the Chinese food you ordered

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[Here’s the recipe; although, I just improvised here–dumping rice into a small saucepan, adding some milk, some cream, a handful of sugar and then freshly grated nutmeg. After all the dairy was absorbed, I grated some more nutmeg and added blanched slivered almonds. It’d be cute, I bet, to serve this back in the original take-out container. But, in any case, you have no excuse, when you order Chinese food, not to make this rice pudding. Unless you’re a lactard*.]

[I like using the term “lactard” to refer to the lactose intolerant, although Clay Aiken would frown upon this. However, this is ok, because I frown upon Clay Aiken.]

How To Eat Fried Figs

There are two ways to go about cooking:

1) You find a recipe. You go out and buy the ingredients. You cook them.

2) You go out and buy ingredients. You find a recipe. You cook it.

I have almost always been a #1 person, but tonight I journeyed into the land of #2. (Shut up, I know what you’re thinking). (Sidebar: I once had a teacher write on my paper “scatological” next to a paragraph I wrote about a narrator’s constipated efforts to get what they wanted. I was like “scatological” what does that mean? I looked it up and now I’m proud to have it in my repertoire. We must jump at any and every opportunity to use it.)

Figs. That’s what I bought this evening without a recipe in hand.

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I bought them tonight at Whole Foods when two plans blew up in my face.

Plan 1) Make fish stew from Tom Valenti’s “One Pot Meals.” Needed to buy 2.5 pounds of cod. Cod, I learned, costs $10.50/lb. Scratch that plan.

Plan 2) Make pesto with the last of the summer basil on sale for $1.95 per large container. Good, good. Needed to buy 1/4 cup of walnuts. Walnuts only come in containers for $4. Then pignolis which ran $5. Parmesan cheese ran $5. Spaghettini also $3-4. Garlic, $1.50. This pesto would cost over $20. It didn’t seem fair to spend over $20 on pesto por solo mio. I scratched that plan too.

So I bought sushi, potato chips and figs. Black mission figs. I’d never bought them before. I thought they looked pretty cool.

I got home and ate one. Tastyish. Not as fully accomplished as the Date, but subtler, mellower, with a slightly bitterish undertaste. Ish.

I was not impressed.

So while procrastinating from tonight’s work (had to watch “Chungking Express” and “Some Like It Hot”) (I love “Some Like It Hot”) (Do you think it would be cruel to name my daughter, should I have one, Sugar? I think this would be a good idea for two reasons:

1) I love sugar. I love cooking with sugar. I love things that are sweet. And most probably I’ll love my daughter.

2) I love Billy Wilder.

I searched for black mission fig recipes on the internet. Most of them were for savory dishes like VEAL and DUCK and meaty things that I didn’t have handy. Then I came across these fig recipes and decided to do the only one with ingredients I had handy: fried figs.

Well one small substitution: the recipe called for milk and I didn’t have milk. I typed in “substitute milk” on Google and found some random recipe that suggested subbing sour cream for milk. I had sour cream in my fridge so this seemed like a good idea.

I whisked it with an egg:

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Then added flour, baking powder and salt. Dropped my figs in and coated them:

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Poured two cups of vegetable oil into a pot with a thermometer and cranked up the heat to high. Soon we were at 360 degrees and I added three batter-coated figs:

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They fried pretty quick, and I drained them on paper towels:

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Repeated this with the rest of the figs (16 in all) and then put them on a cooling rack and dusted them with powdered sugar:

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How’d they taste? Mighty good, I’d say. The powdered sugar helped a lot. These figs weren’t particularly sweet. If it were possible, I would have stuffed some of the figs with brown sugar or something to make the insides sweeter. But as they were, they were mature tasting. More “Mean Girls” than “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.”

There was still batter leftover and not to be wasteful I added a handful of sugar and a sprinkling of cinnamon and then spooned some into the pot of hot oil:

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Let them drain on paper towels too:

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How could these taste bad? They didn’t. I sure like me some fried dough. Frying stuff is fun. Maybe french fries and donuts are in our future…

How To Make The Ice Cream Good

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I’ve been disappointed with the chocolate ice cream I made the other night. Ever since it’s been in the freezer, it’s become this giant, solid, chocolate mass that one can only scrape brittle pieces off of with a spoon.

Then tonight it hit me: “Eureka! The microwave!”

I microwaved the ice cream for 45 seconds and voila! It was soft, smooth and delicious. Creamy and perfect. A little technology goes a long way.