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March 2010

March 29, 2010

Open Discussion: Photography, video, blogging as documentation... what's okay, when, and why?

Yesterday, Grant Achatz tweeted about something he posted in the forum on Alinea-Mosaic:

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I clicked on his link, and read what he wrote on the Alinea-Mosaic forum, which is re-posted below (the link to his post and ensuing comments is here):

Documenting ...well me. When photo and videography becomes a bit much.

I appreciate that people are so into food, and excited about eating at Alinea, to the point where it drives them to record it. Obviously these “foodies” are a large segment of our cliental, and the very people that help propel the awareness of food and dining. I certainly admit that the popularity of web based reviews and information has helped Alinea achieve a certain level of popularity, and ultimately some level of success has to be attributed to this. In fact, since the beginning we have embraced the web, often contributing to food blogs with things like the egullet project before the restaurant was even open. With the proliferation of food blogs and the almost competitive nature of the posters to delve further into detail with their reporting, coupled with the ease of capturing images and video with our phones, we have seen a very high rise in photo and videography in the restaurant.

Documenting the food is one thing. I understand taking a photo in the kitchen with the chef after the meal to frame and hang in your office, perhaps of a particular course that you want to remember because it was so amazing, so you can remember the presentation, or even the manipulation of an ingredient in way you have never seen before. Taking it to the next level many people take pictures of every course and some even take photos of the wines as well. I don’t necessarily mind this, but I wonder why people so passionate about food would sacrifice the integrity of the courses, instead prioritizing the documentation. Courses get cold, or melt while the images are taken, and in extreme cases the intended effect of the dish is completely lost. A month ago a front of the house team member served the Hot Potato –Cold Potato to a blogger that was taking photos with a camera resting on a tripod. The server did their normal spiel, telling the guest the dish was intended to be consumed right away so the sensation of temperature contrast could be experienced. Instead they took a few minutes to move the course around on the table to find the right light, snapped several images, and then undoubtedly enjoyed….Warm Potato –Warm Potato. Not to mention the time that is added to the experience. Three extra minutes to take a photo is not much, but if you are eating 30 courses, you just added an hour and a half to your dinner.

And what about the people in the restaurant that are there to –- eat? Or enjoy an evening out with a significant other, or even having a business dinner? Often we have guest request to move tables in the restaurant because they feel the sound of the shutter, the light produced by the auto focus assist, or the person’s actions are ruining their own experience.

But recently the trend has been to video myself or the front of the house team. This is where I feel the documentation crosses the line. Now that I spend a good amount of time in the dining room with the table-plating concept we are doing guests will often stick the camera in my face as I walk up to the table. I never say no to guests when they ask to take a photo with me, but I always suggest we do it in the kitchen after their meal is finished. This is happening with the servers as well. Voice recorders are being held in front of them while they describe a course or a wine, or video is shot. It is uncomfortable… and frankly rude to do so without asking. This activity seems strange to me, I can’t imagine how celebrities feel. No wonder they punch the paparazzi out when they get the chance.

I re-Tweeted Grant's link (adding "it's about time someone said something") and have been getting some interesting replies via both Twitter and email in which most everyone agrees with what Grant's saying in his post.  A few people disagreed, and one person actually said they thought his post was rude and that because dinner at Alinea is expensive, you should be able to do whatever you want.  Which..... sigh.....  I mean COME ON.  A person can't honestly believe that, can they?  Wow.

Maybe it's just that I'm a wannabe Luddite, but I can't bring myself to take pictures at Alinea, Per Se, The French Laundry... heck, most every restaurant I've ever been to.  I sneak the occasional iPhone photo if I wanna remember how something was plated, or if I want to make my Twitter followers drool along with me over something particularly delicious that's sitting in front of me.  But the thought of bringing a camera into a restaurant -- let alone a tripod or a videocamera (the Share Our Strength videos at Bibiana and Central were my only exception; and, I asked for permission ahead of time, and then also checked with the people dining around us) -- just seems so weird to me.  I mean, if Grant were plating something on the table in front of me, you can be damn skippy I wouldn't want even a tiny Flip video camera between us.  Video can't capture how a chef breathes as he works, how his whole body moves, what his hands look like when he holds a spoon versus an offset spatula, how the staff is attuned to a table's needs, what the food smells like as it's being placed on the table.  These are things that can only augment a diner's experience, if only he or she would allow them to be felt instead of putting up that electronic wall and separating him/herself from what's really going on.

Which led me to thinking about how it feels like the way we document our lives has totally changed, and maybe not for the better.  I'm not sure.  Stay with me here...

Like Grant wrote above, it does seem like more people are photographing their food, taking notes to post to Yelp (which is a whole separate matter, that hackjob of a site), and not paying very much attention to a) the pleasure of eating; and b) the pleasure of the company of their dining companion(s).

I'm not perfect.  Like I said, every now and then I've snapped an iPhone photo of the plate in front of me. There have been a handful of times where I've texted a friend about my meal while at the table enjoying said meal.  But on the whole, my phone stays in my bag while I'm enjoying what I eat (and the company of whomever is eating with me).

So now after reading Grant's post, I'm curious: do you take photos at dinner (whether at home, or out)?  Is it okay to bring a tripod to a restaurant or take multiple photos from multiple angles, possibly disrupting the staff or others' dining experiences, not to mention your own?  Is it okay to videotape your meal, doing running commentary or interviewing others at the table while they're eating?  Is it okay to do any or all of this stuff, which likely results in not getting the full experience of what it's like to eat at a place like Alinea (or any restaurant, for that matter)? Do you feel like you deserve to be able to do it?  Do you think it's rude?  Do you care if people do this?  Does it make you crazy?  Tell me.

This topic of documentation struck a nerve with me because I started thinking about it in the context of food and restaurants, but Grant's post also had me thinking about blogging in general, and wondering how many bloggers -- not just food bloggers, mind you -- think about their life as content.  In some ways, maybe, that's good.  Maybe to be a better writer or even a better human being, some people need to feel the pressure of having something to publish -- whether it's photos, words, video, etc. -- to be able to push themselves to do interesting things.  But then in the same breath I have to wonder if people who blog (or anyone, I guess, really) are really missing out on life -- or, at least, those great unexpected, mind-blowing moments in life -- because they're too busy photographing all the things they see/eat/do/buy/cook, scribbling notes about all the funny things their toddler says, or shoving a videocamera in front of someone's face to try and capture something likely uncapturable?

Then, that led me to ask myself: Have we lost the wonder of having personal experiences?  Does everything anything have to be shared?  And, if experiences are to be shared, how do we decide what they are, and then, how do we share them?  Have we lost the joy in simple, person-to-person storytelling?  Do we need 500 photos in our digital cameras or on our Facebook pages of a night out with the girls, or the dinner we ate in New York, a family vacation, or our kid's soccer game?  Is it not enough anymore to just have really wonderful personal experiences?  Does living a good life now have to be measured in the number of "likes" on Facebook, the amount of email or number of comments on a blog post, the size of your Flickr portfolio?

Do we do it to be in competition with one another -- I ate here and you didn't; my kid did this and yours didn't; I bought this cute red sweater and you didn't; I traveled here and you didn't ?  Is it about self-esteem?  Do people blog because it allows them to put a certain "face" on a life that in real life, they maybe aren't really happy with?  If you blog, tell me why.  If you once did but don't anymore, tell me that, too.  If you take a lot of photos, tell me why.  Do you still hand-write the day's account in a personal journal?  If you document certain things in life, but not others, tell me why... and tell me how.  Tell me what gets shared, and what doesn't.  I would love to know what's going on inside that lovely brain of yours.  I'm completely curious about what you document, and what you just experience.

I'm not a technology hater.  I think you guys know that.  I love that I can stay in touch with my faraway cousins via Facebook.  I like that my mom can see something on my Twitter feed and ask me about it the next time we talk.  I love love love that my nephew and I can make fart noises and sing the ABCs to each other over Skype.  I love that old college friends and former work colleagues find me blogging here when they Google my name.

But as documenting parts of our lives in certain ways can be a tool to help keep people together, has it also contributed to taking us or keeping us further away from ourselves?  And, with particular regard to what Grant wrote about, by documenting the things we do in the ways we do, what are we missing out on?  If these frequent-food-photogs take pictures or video in the way he's describing, do they even taste what they eat?  Can they appreciate how many hours/days went into one bite?  Are they honestly getting their money's worth?  Are they cheating all five of their senses out of one of life's truly pleasurable experiences for the sole purpose of maybe, possibly having someone say, "Hey, that's a neat picture"??  Does someone else's "hey, that's a neat picture" matter more to us than whether or not we loved something ourselves?

If anything, for me Grant's post was a gentle reminder and reaffirmation that I don't want to be the kind of person who sacrifices being present in everyday experiences AND special occasions for the sake of/at the risk of being a distracted or distracting documentarian.

What say you?

March 22, 2010

Bison, beets, blueberries, burning cinnamon

Every so often, someone asks me how far along I am in this project of mine. And, I realized last night that I've been giving everyone the same answer for the past six months or so: Uh, I dunno... about a third of the way through the book, I think?

I spent some time yesterday afternoon going through my Alinea at Home spreadsheet, tracking which dishes I'd done, which ones still needed to be posted, and which ones were coming up in the next two months, and it hit me: I'm more than halfway through the book.

I KNOW.

I totally missed my Alinea at Home Halfiversary, which I think might've been the Foie Gras candy.

Wow.  More than halfway through the book.  I've done 56 of 107 dishes.  I kinda can't believe it.  Can you?

The bison dish I did prior to this one was so wonderful in such a personal way I had to force myself not to compare the two when I started cooking this one -- it wouldn't have been fair.  But, this one has so many elements I love: bison, blueberries, beets, fennel... how could I not love it?  I just wasn't sure what everything would taste like together, you know?

It was indeed another week from hell... not in a bad way, just a crazy, hectic schedule with deadlines to meet, more hurry-up-and-wait projects, and other distractions that sorta forced me to cook this in a really condensed and much more compressed timeline than I'd originally planned.  That's okay, though, because I needed more stress and pressure in my life.  Really and truly.

Let's get to it:

Six days prior to even starting this dish, I had to make the corned bison.  Here's the corning liquid the meat rests in, refrigerated for six days:

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(that's water, salt, evaporated cane juice, tinted curing salt, black peppercorns, ground cinnamon, bay leaves, and the guts of a vanilla bean)

Here's the bison leg meat (I removed meat from the multiple osso buco cuts) before it went into the corning liquid:

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Here it is IN the corning liquid:

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And, six days later, here it is in Ziploc sous vide bags with some canola oil in a four-hour, 185F-degree water bath:

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While the bison was sous vide-ing, I prepped a beet for dehydration:

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I sliced one medium-sized beet very thin on my awesome Benriner mandoline (if you don't have one, you should):

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Man, I love the early-morning sun in my kitchen...

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I simmered the beet slices in a mixture of water, salt, and sugar for a few minutes, then let them drain on a towel-lined baking sheet:

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I put the beet slices onto the trays in my dehydrator at 145F degrees, and after five hours, they looked like this:

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I put them into my mini-chopper with some freeze-dried blueberries, and made beet-blueberry crumbs (you'll see the crumbs in the final plating photo):

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As soon as the bison leg meat came out of the water bath, I plonked them into two big bowls of ice water (more ice than water to start) and put two bags of four cubed red beets (with butter!) into the water bath and let the temperature come down to 180F degrees:

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The beets cooked for an hour.  I put them into my blender along with 500g of beet juice, salt, and red wine vinegar until everything was smooth and pureed.  I then added Ultra-Tex 3 to thicken it, then pushed the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and reserved the creamy pudding until it was time to plate.

After the bison leg meat had cooled, I cut it into half-inch cubes and stored it in the fridge until it was time to make bison leg ragout out of it:

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Meanwhile, after the two bags of beets for the beet pudding came out of the water bath, two more bags of beets went in -- one bag of red beet cubes and one bag of golden beet cubes.  These were supposed to have been baby beets, but after calling nine grocery stores and three farmers market producers and not finding any baby beets, I improvised and just cut regular beets into what I thought would be close to baby beet size.  I put them into Ziploc sous vide bags with a mixture of water, salt, red wine vinegar, and butter:

They went into the water bath for about an hour at 165F degrees:

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While they cooked, I made what I think is my favorite-named element of this dish: the Beet Sheet.

The book recommends juicing four beets to get 500g of beet juice, but I had a few bottles of beet juice already on hand, so I just went with that.  I brought the beet juice, agar agar, and salt to a boil, whisking like the Tasmanian Devil while it boiled for a minute and a half, then turned off the burner before whisking in four already-soaked and pliable gelatin (ha! i just typed "genital" - whoops) sheets. 

I poured 120g of this liquid onto an acetate-lined baking sheet and put it in the fridge to set.  I saved the rest of the liquid in case this version of it didn't work and I needed to try again.  Luckily, it worked, though my camera skillz were sorely lacking:

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(no, you don't have glaucoma)

Once the beet sheet had set, I used a 3" round cutter to cut eight circles, which got draped (or folded) over the corned bison ragout in the final plating.

The last thing I had to sous vide was the bison tenderloin (135F degrees for 25 minutes):

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When the tenderloin was done, I plunged it into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  Then, I cut it into eight pieces and let them rest on a plate in the fridge, covered by a paper towel, until it was nearly time to plate.

While all this sous vide action was going on, I was making a few other things: pickled blueberries and blueberry gastrique, and fennel puree.

To make the pickled blueberries, I brought red wine, water, and sugar to a boil, added blueberries, then turned off the burner and let them cool to room temperature.  I strained the blueberries (and stored them in a container in the fridge until it was time to plate), and saved the liquid to make the gastrique (which you essentially do by reducing the blueberry liquid, then adding veal stock and reducing further, skimming and straining until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon). 

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I also made fennel puree by cooking 2 large fennel bulbs (roughly chopped) in a whole freakin' stick of butter (BOO-YAH!), which, when done looked like this.......

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..... and smelled better than almost anything I've smelled in months.  Wowza.  I know I've written before about wanting to bathe in Bordelaise sauce and wanting to steam my face with lemon thyme, but this hot, buttered, fennel gives those other things a SERIOUS run for their money.  Day-um.  And for some reason, I'm now singing "HOT buttered FENNEL...(hot buttered fennel) tonight....(tonight) Oh yeah...."

I put the hot buttered fennel (you're singing it now, too, aren't you) into a blender to puree it, then passed it through a chinois into a saucepan to keep warm, where I added a dash of white wine vinegar and some kosher salt.  You'll see the final fennel puree in the plating photo.

Another element you'll soon see is the corned bison leg ragout.  I took the cubes of bison meat and added them to a warmed mixture of cream cheese, heavy cream, red wine vinegar, salt, a lightly blanched dice of fennel, and a fennel seed/star anise powder seen here:

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I took a photo of the bison ragout as it was cooking, but it looks like dog food on its own, so I deleted it.

I shaved some fresh fennel on my mandoline and pulled off some fennel fronds for the dish, and the last thing I had to do before plating was sear the bison tenderloin pieces -- a few minutes on each side.  I also reheated the mock-baby beets in their cooking liquid.

Here's what the final dish looked like:

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So, let's look at this photo below and go clockwise from the top, shall we?

Mock-baby red beets, mock-baby golden beets, beet pudding, fennel puree, corned bison ragout (topped with shaved fresh fennel and fennel fronds), seared bison tenderloin (topped with a 2" piece of beet sheet), and in the middle were the pickled blueberries, sitting in a small pool of blueberry gastrique.  The confetti-like sprinklin' action you see on top of the fennel puree?  Those are beet-blueberry crumbs.

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Twelve elements in one dish.  Gorgeous.

The book suggests adding a smoking cinnamon stick or two to each plate, and in the book they're using plates shaped to be able to do that.  I couldn't make it work on each individual plate, so I lit a bunch of cinnamon sticks on fire, then blew them out so the cinnamon smoke would be our centerpiece as we ate:

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One of my good friends was in town from Portland, OR (he's a vegetarian, and loved the bison), another college friend came by, and my neighbors were more than happy to join us for this dish. 

I started off by eating little tastes of each of the elements of this dish.  I'd been tasting as I went along, but did a little round-robin of nibbling before starting to mix things and get a taste of beets and bison, bison and fennel and golden beet, bison, blueberries, fennel, and beet pudding.... the combinations were kinda fun to experiment with.

The bison ragout tasted better than it looked (whew!).  In fact, it was delicious.  You could tell it was corned, but I kinda thought it might taste more corned than it did, but that's okay.  The seared bison tenderloin was AMAZING... just further proof that when you start with great ingredients, you're halfway there.  All I did was add heat, and it was melt-in-the-mouth good.  The beets were lovely (I love beets, even though as a kid they made me gag).  The fennel puree was really nice, though in retrospect could've used more salt.  I liked the raw fennel with beets and bison, too.  Didn't know what they'd be like together, but the freshness of the fennel pulls the beets away from feeling too earthy and heavy.  I loved loved LOVED the pickled blueberries.  If you own this book and wanted to try something from it, make the pickled blueberries (page 112).  Seriously.  They took all of 5 minutes of active cooking time and 30 minutes of cooling-to-room-temperature time.  No whackadoo ingredients.  Just blueberries, red wine, water, and sugar.  Be a rock star.  Channel your inner Achatz.  MAKE THESE BLUEBERRIES, I BEG YOU.  I think they'd go really nicely with pork, too.  Or, you know, you could just eat them out of a bowl on their own, they're that good.

I didn't want this dish to end.  It was a hefty portion of food, and I was glad for that.  It was nice to have everyone around my table, enjoying something I made, using ingredients I love, but never would have thought to put together on one plate.  And, I had leftovers of many of the elements of this dish, so I was happy to share them with the neighbors and snack on them myself over the next day or two.  That's one of the awesome benefits of doing this blog: my fridge has the best leftovers in America.  True story.

Before I go....

I did a few Q&A posts on my French Laundry at Home blog, where I encouraged folks to post questions in the comments or email me with things they wanted to know, and I think it's high time I did that here.  Some of you have been reading me since way back in the beginning of my FL@H days, but many of you haven't.  So, if there's anything you wanna know -- whether it's about me, food, cooking, Alinea, gluten, writing, the time I spilled a drink on Colin Powell's shoes, Barry Manilow, my obsession with notebooks, snow, how I got kicked out of my college pre-med program, or my thoughts on Richard Marx (seriously, Richard Marx's PR person, I know this is showing up in your Google Alert, so can we please just have a conversation about a photo-op when he's here in the DC area on April 6, please, I'm beggin' ya?) feel free to ask.  Hit me in the comments or email me at carolblymire@alineaathome.com.  I'll do a post or two to answer your questions, and will also let you know what I'm thinking about this blog now that I'm halfway done.  'Cause I have been thinking about it quite a bit these past few days now that I know how far I've come...

Up Next: Marcona Almond, white ale, pink pepper, lavender

Resources: Bison from Gunpowder Bison & Trading; David's kosher salt; Wholesome Sweeteners evaporated cane sugar; black peppercorns, cinnamon, bay leaves, vanilla bean, fennel seed, and star anise from TPSS Co-op; 365 brand butter, cream cheese, and canola oil; beets and cinnamon sticks from HMart in Wheaton, MD; Domino sugar; Just Blueberries dried blueberries; Terra Medi vinegars; Ultra-Tex 3 from Terra Spice; gelatin sheets and agar agar from L'Epicerie; blueberries and fennel from Whole Foods; Organic Valley heavy cream; Biotta beet juice.

Music to Cook By: Nellie McKay; Normal as Blueberry Pie.  I sometimes think I was born in the wrong era.  I should've been an adult in the 50s and 60s, because the singer/songwriter genre in those decades is so ingrained in my DNA, it's kinda of scary.  Nellie McKay, however, is a modern-day singer/writer who has that early 60s feel to her music.  Think Doris Day meets Baby Washington meets The Pentagons meets Don Cherry.  The first time I heard one of her songs, I thought it was part of a retro/oldies podcast, but I was wrong.  If you're missing "Mad Men" as much as I am, and you wanna transport yourself back to the early 60s but still support a young artist, see what you think of Nellie McKay.  Ya might just like her yerself.

Read My Previous Post: Comfort Food (Bison, braised pistachios, potato, sweet spices)

March 15, 2010

Alinea at Home: Comfort Food (Bison, braised pistachios, potato, sweet spices)

I bought my house just over twelve years ago, and I remember my first night here as clearly as if it were yesterday.  I didn't sleep at all -- partly because I was sleeping somewhere new, and that meant new smells, new sounds, and just a whole new feel... not to mention it was the first major investment I'd ever made, and those numbers on the closing sheet leapt from the page into the worry area of my brain and cascaded down the inside of my eyelids like a cruel hybrid of Tetris and The Matrix as I tried to fall asleep.

The second night in my house, it rained... and the sound of that hard pouring rain completely washed away the fear of owning a home. It washed away the digital shower of numbers in my brain, the weird sounds and smells, and it calmed me completely. I've always loved the sound of rain -- and, there's something about the way it sounds when it lands on my roof, or hits the muddy ground or the leaves of my hydrangea bushes just outside the living room window.

We had quite a lovely sunny, warm streak of weather last week, which melted all the snow, but for the past three days, it's done nothing but rain. Dreary, gray skies, and a steady ploploploplopdropdripdripdrop all day and all night. I love it. I loved it even more because it had been a week where that kind of soothing noise was very much needed... one of those weeks where I worked from the minute I woke up until my head hit the pillow at night.

My phone rang non-stop and email poured in. There were new clients to pitch, brainstorms to be had, things to write, conference calls to conduct, deadlines to meet, projects to deliver. Some things took off beautifully while others stalled or got postponed or rushed or canceled or left in limboland. And while I was working, I kept noticing things around the house that needed to be done. Errands to be run. Pet projects I want to start. Things I want to cook. Photos to organize. Things I want to write. People I want to talk to. Books I want to read. Magazines I want to peruse. Friends and family I want to see.

Working from home is usually something I love and am really grateful for. But last week, I wished I had a job and an office I could leave in the evening so that work was work and home was home.

I didn't sleep well at all last week, because my brain was still trying to work while I was trying to sleep. And when it wasn't my own thoughts waking me up in a cold sweat, it was the herd of ten or eleven deer that, every night, makes their way from the woods next to my house, through my front yard, over the garden wall just below my bedroom window (they huff and snort, and thonk and clack their hooves on the wall as they leap over), and meander around my neighbor's garden just outside the other bedroom window.

Again, grateful for the work and the business I've built over the past nine years, but I was more physically and mentally drained by Friday afternoon than I've been in a long, long time. I knew I needed to shut off that part of my brain for just two days (something I rarely allow myself do). So, late Friday afternoon, I went across the street to my friend Linda's house to sit by the fire with a glass of wine, many snacks, and played a mean game of cards with my friends.

On Saturday, I spent a good part of the day reading my friend, Tara's book, The Butcher and the Vegetarian.  I loved the book because it "sounds" just like Tea when she talks.  I'd also recently re-read my dear friend, Laurie's book, Saving Henry.  Both books are so personal and so beautifully written, and yet both books also deal with profound struggle on so many levels. Throughout, both Tea and Laurie maintain a sense of hope and courage and a fierce determination I admire.

I spent a lot of time Saturday afternoon thinking about Tara and Laurie and how their stories weighed heavily on my heart, and that, heaped onto my already-exhausted self, made me sorely in need of some serious comfort food.

I've written quite a bit about my love of cooking for others.  I love to show people how I feel about them by cooking for them.  But it's not often enough that I care about myself that way.  Yes, I cook nearly every day for myself, and yes, I actually do eat at my dining room table many nights.  But, it had been a very long time since I'd spent an hour or so in the kitchen making something just for me.

I needed to cook something that was comforting, yet wouldn't make me feel like crap three hours later as it sat there in my stomach like a lump (hey there, mac and cheese) (also, bag of Swedish fish).  I didn't want to slap anything together in a hurry.  I wanted to take my time and really pay attention to what I was doing.

So, I adapted the Bison, braised pistachios, potatoes, sweet spices dish.  There was nothing difficult about making the dish as it was in the book.  I'd already bought all the ingredients and was ready to let 'er rip.  But, I decided to adapt it because I wanted something that felt like dinner, not a tasting menu item, and I wanted it to taste like something that was mine, only better.

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In addition to the bison tenderloin thawing in the fridge for this dish, I'd already begun to dry-age a six-ounce bison tenderloin in the fridge, thinking I'd eat it Sunday night. I love prepping meat this way -- I rinse it, thoroughly dry it, salt it, and stick it on a plate for 4 or 5 days in the fridge, uncovered.  It gets all hard and tough on the outside, which gives it a lovely sear when you put it in the pan, and it cooks more evenly.

I poured a little canola oil into a stainless-steel saute pan, heated it on medium for about 3 minutes, then placed the bison tenderloin in the pan, searing it on all sides (took about 10 minutes).  Then, I put it (still in the pan) in a 450-degree oven for 5-7 minutes.

I made mashed potatoes (my own personal favorite comfort food) by boiling some Yukon Golds, then mashing them (skins on) in the Kitchen Aid mixer, along with some whole milk, unsalted butter, and sea salt.  No measurements. I've been making mashed potatoes for so long, I do it completely unconsciously now, and they're always perfect.

I also sauteed some Swiss chard with carrots, shallots, and pistachios in butter and olive oil, along with some curry powder (dash), cinnamon (pinch), thyme (sprig), allspice (trace amount), salt, and pepper. Oh, I wish you all could've been in my kitchen to smell this as it came together.

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I poured a glass of water and a glass of Malbec, and sat and ate that dinner at my table in the dining room... no music... no television... no books or magazines.  Just me, my dinner, and the sound of the rain on the roof.

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The bison was cooked a perfect medium-rare.  So flavorful and robust, without being overly rich or heavy.  And let me tell you -- the tiny amounts of spices I put in that vegetable dish blended so beautifully with the carrots, shallots, and chard, and the pistachios were so tender, they fit right in, texturally.  This dinner had all the elements of the original dish in the book, just done a little differently.

As I cleared the table and started loading the dishwasher, my friend, Chris, called to see if I wanted to grab a drink or see a movie.  I'd bought a bottle of Caol Ila I hadn't yet opened, so I told him to come over for some scotch and a movie.  It was the perfect way to end the evening.

Sunday morning came, and for the first time in a long time, the whole daylight-saving-losing-an-hour-of-sleep-thing didn't bother me.  I credit dinner the night before.  I slept really well and loved the feel of the rain on my messy morning hair as I plodded in my new slippers* down the front sidewalk to pick up the New York Times from the edge of the yard.  I made a pot of coffee as I got started on the crossword puzzle (which I'm now able to do every day of the week without looking up any of the clues -- one of those life list goals.  I know.  NERD.).

I emptied the dishwasher and got ready for the day.  I felt really good about the dinner the night before, but still felt like I needed to be taken care of a bit more.  This week is going to be as mentally draining as last week, so I thought it would be good to get the heck out of Washington for the day... away from my phone and my laptop and all the things in my house nagging to be done.  I also really wanted someone else to cook for me, and I wanted it to be Carlos.

Carlos Barroz is from Cordoba, Argentina, and is the chef at one of my favorite restaurants in the little beach town I go to every summer.  He's a good friend and a great cook, and he and two of his best friends (also dear friends of mine) just opened a new restaurant, Hoof + Fin, in Philadelphia.  I wanted meat and I wanted chimichurri, but I also wanted raw fish.  And I wanted to see his new restaurant.  And, even though it was raining, I also really wanted to drive.  I wanted a few hours of uninterrupted time to clear my head, listen to podcasts, and daydream.

So, I hit the road and made it to Philly in record time.  Um, I mean, I, uh, drove 55 the whole way, MOM, and made it there in exactly the time I should have.  (only not)  (I have a lead foot)   I cruised up I-95, and as the highway split to 495 toward Philadelphia, off to the right was the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which just broke my face into this huge, uncontrollable smile.  That's my bridge.  That's the bridge that, when I cross it, means I'm just an hour and a half from kicking off my shoes, running in the sand, turning my face toward the sun, and standing ankle-deep in the ocean, grinning from ear-to-ear.  (one of my favorite things in the world) (but I digress) (and what's up with all these parentheticals I'm doing) (I need to knock it off)

I puttered around Old City and Queen Village for a bit, then headed over to the restaurant for an early dinner.  If you live in or near Philadelphia, I hope you'll stop by and eat at Hoof + Fin.  It's a great space, and the food is... well..... wow.

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I started with the fluke carpaccio (sorry for the crap iPhone photo quality), which was raw fluke, radish, red onion, clementines, red chiles, and a truffle-lime-lemon juice :

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Carlos then followed that with a giant plate o' meat: skirt steak, short ribs, chorizo, sweetbreads, ribeye, lamb, some chimichurri, as well as a stack of frites topped with an over-easy egg, and a side of parsnip puree:

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Holy wow. 

And, exactly what I needed.

I sent back an empty plate, but for the bones.

>urp<

*   *   *   *   *

I know what I made on Saturday night was not the exact dish from the book, but it encompassed all of the flavors, and they all came together in a way I didn't expect at all.  In fact, this dish -- and the adaptation of it, really -- came at a time I didn't expect to need it, but found out I really did.

In fact, if you'd told me when I started this blog back in October 2008 whether I thought anything in this book could ever remotely resemble comfort food, I'd have told you to put down the crack pipe.

And now I know I'm wrong.  Happily so, in fact.  Usually, this book challenges and expands the ways in which I think about food.  But this weekend, this cookbook calmed, comforted, and soothed me.  Used to be that a grilled cheese sandwich was my go-to comfort food.  Now, it's something Alinea-inspired.  I like that.  I like that a lot.

What do you do when you need to be comforted and cared for?  Do you cook?  If so, what?  Or, do you want others to cook something for you?  Neither?  Both?  (I'm in the "both" camp)

Do tell.... I'd love to know.

Up Next: Bison, beets, blueberries, burning cinnamon

Resources: Bison from Gunpowder Bison & Trading; vegetables from the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Co-op.

Read My Previous Post:  Pushed foie gras, sauternes, pear, chervil

* I got new slippers!  Because I am a dork who falls when she wears old, tread-worn slipper socks!  Yay!  Thanks, Mom and Dad.

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March 08, 2010

Pushed Foie Gras, sauternes, pear, chervil

It is so hard to believe that just four weeks ago there was four feet of snow outside my front door, and that today, the temperature will be 60 degrees, the sun will shine, and there will be nary a cloud in the sky.  The weather was gorgeous all weekend, so while I'd had visions of working on the two bison dishes, I completely blew it off and worked outside in my yard for hours on end, cleaning out all the fallen limbs and piles of moldy leaves, pulling weeds that somehow grew beneath the snow, and taking those first steps toward greeting spring.  I have SO MUCH work to do today that it will take all the energy and concentration I have to get it done, instead of standing outside on the front walk, tilting back my head, closing my eyes, and letting the sun warm my face for a bit.  Oh, who am I kidding... I'll do all my work AND take those sunshine breaks, too.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I split one foie gras between two dishes.  This is the second dish.  The preparation for the foie was exactly the same in both recipes, so after I'd pushed the cured and blanched foie through the tamis, I set aside half of it on a parchment-lined sheet tray in the freezer until it was time to plate.

I often do two Alinea dishes concurrently.  Sometimes even three if there are (expensive) shared ingredients I need to work with in a timely fashion.  Doing these two at the same time was actually really easy.  I actually enjoy figuring out what needs to dehydrate when, and what needs more time in the fridge or freezer, and then figuring out what other elements of the dishes I can do during those downtimes.  Some people enjoy rock climbing.  I enjoy time management of cooking things.

The first thing I made was the roasted pear puree.  I roasted 10 pears in a bed of kosher salt for 45 minutes in a 375F-degree oven:

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After they'd had a chance to cool, I peeled and cored them, then pulverized them in the blender for about three minutes, along with some salt and sugar:

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The roast pear puree gets split between two elements in this dish -- pear sorbet and pear panna cotta. 

First, the pear sorbet -- I mixed some of the pear puree in a saucepan with some heavy cream, salt, glucose, and Trimoline and brought it to a boil.  I then let it simmer for about 5-6 minutes before turning off the flame and then adding the juice of half a lemon.  I put the mixture in the fridge for an hour to cool it, before putting it into my ice cream maker for a half-hour.  After it'd been thoroughly chilled, I scooped it into a loaf pan and stored it in the freezer until it was time to plate:

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Next, I made the pear panna cotta.  I soaked 5 gelatin sheets in cold water until they were pliable and all squooshy and stuff.  Then, I put the gelatin sheets in a saucepan with some pear puree, heavy cream, sugar, and salt, and warmed it over low-medium heat, stirring until the gelatin had fully dissolved.

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I removed the liquid from the heat and poured it into plastic-wrap-bottomed ring molds.  You should know the recipe made more than just the six ring mold you see in the photo below.  I also had enough to pour some into 6 more little ramekins, so I had a few extras to enjoy.

The panna cotta-filled ring molds went into the fridge until the liquid had set -- which took about 2 hours.

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The second step of the pear panna cotta was to make a Sauternes gelatin, which I did, and which I also poured on top of the set pear panna cotta and allowed it to set.  No photos of that... sorry.  But you'll see that second layer in the final plating photo.

Now, the one thing I actually did a day before serving (the same day I started the foie) was make the pear chips.  I sliced this lovely little D'Anjou pear lengthwise on my mandoline:

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Then, using a 1" round cutter, I cut out little discs, keeping the pear skin intact in part of it:

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I poached them in some simple syrup for about 2 minutes:

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Then, after gently drying them with a paper towel (those suckers were fragile), I put them in the dehydrator.

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The book suggests they'd be dehydrated and crisp in about three hours, but I'm glad I started these a day ahead, because they took nearly 12 hours to fully dehydrate. 

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To plate, I gently pushed the panna cotta topped with Sauternes gelee out of each ring mold and onto a plate.  Then, I topped it with some of the tamis-ed foie gras (which had actually only been in the freezer for about a half hour).  Next to the foie, a spoonful of pear sorbet, with a pear chip.  Last, a garnish of baby mint leaves.  The recipe called for anise hyssop (even though the title of the dish mentions chervil), but my anise hyssop plant is still hibernating, so I opted for mint (similar taste).

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I served this dish the same afternoon I served the foie gras candy you read about earlier.  We ate this one first, before trying the candy.  It was cold and smooth and fresh, and I absolutely loved the mellow, hey-how-YOU-doin' sweetness of the pear with the taste of Sauternes (I'm not a big fan of dessert wines, but in this preparation, I did), and the creamy foie with that?  WOW.  I didn't think I'd dislike it, but I also didn't expect to like it this much.  I can't imagine a preparation where I wouldn't enjoy foie (okay, maybe foie with celery and cilantro), but this dish is something I'd definitely make again.  Or, you know, I suppose I could just roast a small foie and make a pear chutney to eat with it. 

Pardon me while I go drool......

Up Next: Bison, braised pistachios, potato, sweet spices

Resources: Foie gras from Hudson Valley Foie Gras; D'Anjou pears, mint, and lemon from HMart; David's kosher salt; Domino sugar; Organic Valley heavy cream; gelatin sheets, glucose, and Trimoline from L'Epicerie; Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes (2003); 

Music to Cook By: Fitz and the Tantrums; Songs for a Breakup, Vol. 1.  I completely forgot the name of this album, because I never heard a breakup sound quite like this. There's more soul to this album than anything I've heard in the past 20 years.  It feels like soul music did in the early 60s -- nothing over-produced, no artist bigger than the song, just straightforward music with fantastic vocals, and a beat you can't help but bop your head to.

Read My Previous Post: Foie Gras, spicy cinnamon puff, apple candy

March 01, 2010

Foie Gras, spicy cinnamon puff, apple candy

Before we get to this dish, I have to say how much I LOVED all your guesses at how I broke my hand.  Seriously y'all, there were more ninja kicks, karate chops, and snowboard tricks in the comments than I ever dreamed possible, and that makes me feel like a superhero.

Now, for the real story.  Which is sooooo the antithesis of superhero I'm actually regretting my promise to reveal it.  But I am nothing if not a woman of my word, so here goes:

It was a mild February morning, and I had just loaded the dishwasher and was dressed and ready to go meet a friend for lunch.  I'd been writing and working and having a really productive morning, so I treated myself to a little Prince jam session as I gathered the folders and notebooks I'd spread across the dining room table in planning a campaign for one of my clients.  The first song on my Prince playlist is "Controversy," a seven-minute song that affords me the opportunity to booty-shake from room to room and try out my Morris Day and the Time moves.  You know what I'm talkin' 'bout.

Clad in jeans and a really cute sweater, and smiling at the snow melting outside, I was fantasizing about which shoes I'd wear to lunch.  Shoes that haven't seen the light of day since December, before the first of three blizzards this winter.  Should I wear the cute brown suede boots?  Little red ballet flats?  Black patent leather clogs?  I was still wearing my cozy slipper-socks -- the ones I wear every morning as I pad around the house, making coffee, doing The New York Times crossword puzzle, getting started on my day.  As I left the dining room, I cranked the stereo volume even higher so I could hear it upstairs as I was picking out earrings and shoes.  I fiercely, determinedly, and quite like I was on a catwalk, strutted and strode to the beat of the music out of the dining room and into and through the living room (maybe adding some shoulder movements to the walk because I have the delusion that sometimes I am in my very own music video). I tossed my iPhone into my purse on a chair at the base of the stairs, and busted a move my way up the steps (still to the beat, because it's important when you're in a music video to make sure every step you take is choreographed perfectly) until I was three steps from the top landing and just wiped out.  Plain and simple.  My foot missed the step and I slipped (damn sock-slippers) and fell forward and to the side, and as I tried halfway into the fall to stop myself from going face-first onto the floor, I somehow fell into the door frame at the top of the stairs that leads to the guest room and bathroom, and I heard a crunching sound and saw my hand form the shape of a trapezoid as it hit the door jamb, and I just laid there for a few seconds -- like when a baby falls or bumps its head and it just does that open-mouthed crying face with no sound coming out at all.

And then, it was not a baby-crying sound that escaped my lips.  Oh no.  Not even close.  But because this is a family program, I'll refrain from giving you a literal transcript.  Use your imagination.  Then, make it ten times more crude.  Now twenty.  There you go.

I laid there for a minute or two, moving all my extremities, one at a time, to make sure I still could, then stood up to finish getting ready to go out for lunch.  I was sure I'd just jammed it.  Maybe just bumped and bruised it.  That was all.  Only the throbbing.  It kept getting worse.  Holy crap.  I could barely hold a hairbrush with that hand, let alone do anything else with it.  Driving was a treat, steering around tight corners with just my right hand.  Parallel parking.  Oy.  I went to lunch, hand a-blazing, then came home and tried to do some work, but instead watched the top of my hand swell and turn colors and generally make my life unpleasant.  So, I went to the ER where hello, teeny-tiny hairline fractures, major bruising and jamming and all that crap.  Wrapping, ice, rest, and elevation for the next 48 hours, and you know what?  A week later, and it feels nearly back to normal.  The swelling is gone, there's just a wee bit of greenish-yellow bruising, and it's only just a little sore when I type too much or use it too often.  By the end of this week, I'm sure it'll feel totally fine. I'll be back to juggling chainsaws and waterskiing with Fonzie.

So, that's our lesson for the day: Don't pretend you're in a Prince video while walking up the stairs wearing socks.  Or maybe, don't pretend you're in a Prince video at all, no matter what you're wearing or where you're walking?  Gah.

When the comments started rolling in on that last post, I do believe I guffawed over quite a few of them.  I didn't expect anyone to totally guess the whole story, but now that you know it, I think you'll agree there are three runners up, and one grand-prize winner:

The three runners up are:

For guessing my falling on the stairs and whacking my hand, a prize goes to Kathy said: "I say you tripped on a stair for *no* reason at all, and whacked the back of your hand on the railing as you fell."

For bringing my undying love of Prince into the picture, Mantonat gets a nod for suggesting: Doing the hand gestures to Prince's "I would Die 4 U."

For knowing my proclivity to dancing when I'm alone in the house and bringing the choreography element into it, Jennifer gets a nod for guessing: You fell off your couch while doing the dance scene from Flashdance.

But really, let's give a big round of applause to a certain commenter who pretty much stole the show with a novella that is incredibly spot on when it comes to the inner workings of the Blymire mind, and for tying in the music, fuzzy socks, and wiping out elements of the story, let's hear it for Kailee, who wrote: It had been an unusual winter, that much was certain. More snow than many people could ever remember. It has caused a slight panic around the city. Nothing crazy, mind you, but excitement and wonderment laced the air, prompting people to raid the stores for provisions. Milk, apples, beef for braising, condoms. Then the snow became gray. The buzz died. Wonderment turned to frustration as people circled, circled looking for a parking spot. Maybe that's why people are so on edge, you thought to yourself. Even emails from your favorite colleagues, tinged with a little angst from the cold. You stand to stretch and look out your window. Thank God that tree is being removed tomorrow. You hate to admit it, but the snow has even gotten to you. And you love that stuff. But now, when the threat of snow looms, you don't think of potluck dinner parties and bourbon. Your mind wants to race forward to a few months from now. The trees will start to green. The air will become sweet. The market will have peas. Then berries. Then peaches. You lift your wine glass from the coffee table. Malbec. The inky wine lightly splashes the sides of your glass. It's spicy and tastes of blackberries, cinnamon and oak. You sigh and take a long sip. It's the closest you'll get to berries for weeks. But, it tastes good. And the wine begins to shimmy through you, making you feel warm and happy. Enough emails for today. It's time for music. You start to flip through your iPod. Maybe some music to lift the mood. Something to make you feel warm and light. What goes with a Malbec? Journey. You smile. Yes, that is what the wine dictates. A little Journey. Separate Ways begins to fill the air. You can't help yourself. You love this song. Who can know for sure, but maybe it was the Malbec, or the music, or maybe the last dregs of snow madness in your body, but you feel like dancing. Clad in your fuzzy socks, you begin to move with the music. You sing along, swaying your hips and moving your shoulders. A little twirl before suddenly you lose your balance and Bam! Shit. That really hurt. You pick yourself up off the ground and curse your socks. Your hand is really hurting. You reach again for your glass and find it hurts to lift it. Now this is serious. It's probably only a sprain, you try to reason with yourself. But your hand is throbbing, and the sweet hum of the Malbec has vanished. I better get this checked out. You wrap your coat around you, then your scarf. You slip into your boots and head out the door. It's cold tonight. You exhale and see your breath. God, I'm ready for spring.

Kailee, seriously.  Damn, girl.....  :)

So, give it up for Mantonat, Kathy, Jennifer, and Kailee!!!!!!  And, to the four of you, I'll be in touch via email in the next day or two and we'll sort out some sort of prize situation.

*   *   *   *   *

Now, let's talk about food.  Or, more precisely, let's talk about foie gras:

Look how beautiful it is...

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I mean, really... is there a lovelier thing?

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Well, yeah... maybe that vein isn't so gorgeous, but still.  Mmmmmmm..... foie.  I remember when I was just starting out on my French Laundry at Home journey, how terrified I was of deveining a foie gras.  I was kinda scared to touch it, let alone take apart the lobes, clean it up, and cook it.  I had nightmares about it.  It haunted me.  And now?  Pffftttt.  Ain't no thang.

Even with a broken hand, I took this guy apart, cleaned it up, removed the huge veins, and cut it into 1" cubes.

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I tossed those cubes in a salt, sugar, pink salt combo and molded the bunch of cubes into a semi-cylindrical shape (that part was a little difficult, not having the full use of my hand, but I did it the best I could) and put it in a sous vide Ziploc bag, sucked out all the air and stored it in the fridge for 24 hours.

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Next, I made the cinnamon tea, which would be turned into some rather glorious cinnamon puffs.  To make the tea, I roasted some cinnamon sticks in a 350F-degree oven for 10 minutes, then poured some boiling water (to which I'd added salt and sugar) over them, added some cayenne, stirred, covered, and let the whole thing steep for 8 hours.

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At the end of the 8-hour steep, I poured the liquid through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into a saucepan and warmed the liquid to a simmer.

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I poured the liquid into the bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer, added some Methocel F-50 (the name of which reminds me of those Brawndo ads -- METHOCEL F-50 WILL MAKE YOU NEED *NEW PANTS*  METHOCEL F-50 WILL MAKE YOU *WIN* AT *YELLING*), and (using the whisk attachment) beat the crap outta that mixture for 8 minutes -- when it started to form stiff peaks.  METHOCEL F-50 WILL MAKE YOU *FORM* *STIFF PEAKS*!!!!

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I put that meringue-like, amazing-smelling goodness into a Ziploc bag, cut off the corner, and piped little bite-sized morsels onto lined trays in my dehydrator. METHOCEL F-50 WILL MAKE YOU *WIN* AT *DEHYDRATING*!!!  [okay, stopping now]

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The book suggests they'll be fully dehydrated and crisp after 4 hours.  Mine took nearly 12 hours (probably a residential vs. commercial dehydrator).  You'll see what they look like in the final plating shot.

The next thing I did was prep the apple candy, because I wanted to give it a chance to set overnight, if it needed to.  So, I heated the cider and glucose over medium heat, and whisked gently to dissolve the glucose:

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Then, I mixed in some sugar, yellow pectin, and citric acid and brought it to a boil, whisking to dissolve.  When it had begun boiling, I added even more sugar, whisking to dissolve that, and heated it to 225F degrees.

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I poured it into a Pam-sprayed 13x9" baking dish and let it cool and set.  Took about 2 hours.

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I went to bed and finished everything for the dish about an hour or so before everyone came over.

I removed the foie from the Ziploc bag and rolled it in cheesecloth, tying the ends tightly.

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I blanched the foie in boiling water for about 90 seconds, then plunged it into an ice bath for 10 minutes.

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I removed it from the cheesecloth and pressed it through a tamis (also known as a fine-mesh sieve):

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I put half of it on a tray and put it in the freezer for the other foie gras dish I was working on, and smushed the rest into a small Ziploc bag (with a cut off corner) so I could pipe it into the cinnamon puff, which I'd gently hollowed out using a cinnamon stick:

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I squeezed in enough foie so that it was nearly full to the outer edge, then plugged up the hole with a small piece of apple candy (which had set much firmer than the olive brine candy I'd made recently):

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Here's a plate of 'em:

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And here's what they look like from the bottom:

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They're cute, aren't they?  But I bet you're wondering what they tasted like.  Well, I tasted one before everybody came over, so I knew what I thought about them.  After my friends and I had eaten the foie-pear-sauternes dish you'll read about next week, I saw my friend, Sean, reach for one of these candies -- he was the first to try them -- and he popped it into his mouth, and three seconds later said, "whoa" because the cinnamon and cayenne kicked in, and as he chewed it (which you only need to do, like, four times before it's masticated), he just grinned and reached for another.  Everyone around the table loved them.  They pack a punch, that's for sure, but the flavor and the texture were divine.  There's the heat and the spice of the cinnamon and cayenne, yes.  And it's crunchy and crispy, but also kinda melts in your mouth as you chomp down on it... then the creamy foie taste kicks in and makes it all the more melty and smooth and flavorful.  And the apple candy?  It's sharp and fresh and sweet and really bridges the heat and spice with the foie.  I didn't know what these were gonna taste like.  I thought about what a foie-filled spicy meringue might  taste like, and I couldn't get my brain or my palate to go there.  Just wasn't happening.  Even if I could've conjured it, my imagination wouldn't have been able to fathom how delicious these really are in real life.  They're like little bites of a miracle is what they are.

So, I loved them, and my friends in the neighborhood loved them.  But that evening, I faced a tougher bunch of critics: some very sweet and amazing friends who also happen to be some of the city's most fun and well regarded food writers and culinary connoisseurs.  When we're together, we are not shy about how we talk about food, cooking, and restaurant experiences.  There are no holds barred if someone's had a bad dining experience.  On the other end of the spectrum, we rave on and on about places we love and food that's good, and do everything we can to promote great chefs, cooks, restaurants, meals, sommeliers, mixologists, shops, and whoever in town is doing things well.  So, knowing how open we all are with one another about our likes and dislikes, I knew to be prepared if they hated these foie-filled puffs.  They certainly wouldn't be shy about saying something.  Granted, they'd do it politely because we're friends, but still... I was ready.  I got to my friend's house, and we started cooking.  She'd already prepared some nibbles to tide us over while we made the rest of the evening's feast, and I ever-so-calmly put out a plate of the puffs and said, "These are from the Alinea cookbook, and they're cinnamon-cayenne puffs filled with apple candy and foie gras."  And I waited as they each took turns trying them.  I think "wow" was the word of the night, followed by "whoa" and I think one "are you kidding me?" because they were a hit, yet again!  Whew.  They'd lost a wee bit of the crispness in the 20-minute drive to her house, but that was to be expected. 

I feel like after the food slump I went through, it's about time that food did me right.  And, I feel like I'm on a roll again because everything was right with these puffs.  Everything.

NOTE: If you'd like to make these at home, here's the recipe, courtesy of Google Books.

Up Next: Pushed foie gras, sauternes, pear, chervil

Resources: Foie from the remarkable Hudson Valley Foie Gras; David's kosher salt; Domino pink sugar; Himalania pink salt; cinnamon sticks from HMart; cayenne pepper from the TPSS Co-op; Methocel F-50 from Terra Spice; Ziegler's apple cider; glucose, yellow pectin, and citric acid from L'Epicerie.

Music to Cook By: Duo; Richard Marx and Matt Scannell.  SHUT UP.  Do not mock the INJURED and the MUSIC THEY LISTEN TO.  Ahem.  "Duo" is an album by Richard Marx and Matt Scannell (former lead singer of Vertical Horizon) featuring the two of them duet-ing on acoustic versions of their individual greatest hits, and I like it.  Actually, I love it.  I am not ashamed of my Richard Marx fangirliness, so there.  Maybe if I mention Richard Marx and his name a few more times, Richard Marx, the Google alert he has set up for himself, Richard Marx, will pick up this post, which will make Richard Marx wanna email me and say, "Hey you, when I come to DC on my tour, I would love to have you take me, Richard Marx, to dinner so we can talk about how big a fan you are of me, Richard Marx."  There.  That should do it.  Richard Marx.  I found out about this album a few months ago when I was farting around online and discovered that Richard Marx HAS A BLOG where he posts video from the road, and I'm kind of obsessed with it.  So, I thought, hey, I've always liked this guy, and I love Matt Scannell, so I headed on over to iTunes and downloaded it.  Tune in next time when I sell all my possessions and move to the UK so I can stalk Simply Red.

Read My Previous Post: Orange, olive oil, almond, picholine olive 

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