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February 2011

February 26, 2011

Goose, blood orange, sage, roasting goose aroma

Before we get started, let's do two three things:

1) The winner of the iTunes giftcard from the previous post (chosen via Random.org) is Beth, who wrote "I've been sick & had mostly crackers and Vernors ginger ale all weekend. Started to feel semi-human yesterday, so my sweet 17-year-old son made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches (a bit charred on the outside, but whatev) for lunch. Knowing how lazy he is, I truly felt the love from that meal."  Congrats to Beth, and big ups to the kid for making his mom one of my favorite get-well meals of all time!

2) My dear friend Chef Nick Stefanelli made the preliminary cut for a James Beard Award nomination for Rising Star.  Fingers crossed that he makes the final cut, because he's really, really good at what he does, and some of his meals have left me speechless and thus returning the next day to eat his cooking again.  He's also up for a People's Choice award for Food & Wine's Best New Chef/Mid-Atlantic.  Can you throw some votes his way?  Polls close March 1.  Thanks!  You can read more about him at that link, but also know that Nick and his team at Bibiana can accommodate people with celiac, and they create the most pleasureable dining experiences, whether in the dining room or just grabbing a seat at the bar.  They've never made me feel like I was being a burden, and for that I am forever grateful.  Oh, and Nick is the one who made the tripe you guys forced me to eat.  Vote for Nick!

3) Chef Achatz' and Nick Kokonas' memoir Life, on the Line comes out in a few days, and I'm giving away a few copies.  Stay tuned.  I'll put up a little contest post on Wednesday. 

*   *   *   *   *

So..... "Goose, blood orange, sage, roasting goose aroma."  I adapted this recipe last summer and made a deviled goose egg.  Remember?

To make the full dish, my plan was to go hunting with my friends Hank Shaw and Holly Heyser to bag a few geese.  Sadly, those plans didn't work out (one of my clients needed me to stay in Washington that week) so I had to get some birds locally here in town, courtesy of Daniel Shirk at Pecan Meadow Farm.  Check 'em out:


Each weighed about 9-10 lbs.

Before I started breaking them down, I consulted Hank's blog to see if there was a difference between breaking down a chicken (which I have plenty experience in doing) and a goose.  Turns out, there is.  I didn't take photos of the breaking-down process, because Hank has a post about it here, and the photo tutorial and directions are outstanding and much better than I could ever do.  Rumor is, it takes Hank about 5 minutes to break down a goose.  Took me nearly 45 minutes to do two.  Practice makes perfect, I guess.

I cured the breast meat in blade mace, black pepper, allspice, salt and sugar:



I refreigerated them overnight.

I cured the goose legs in salt, sugar, pink salt, cloves, orange zest, nutmeg, and black pepper:



Those went into the fridge overnight, as well.

The fat got rendered (another great Hank Shaw tutorial on goose and duck fat rendering, if you're interested):



The carcass, necks, and wings were roasted in a 450F-degree oven for an hour, and then went into a giant pot (with onions, leeks, carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns, and tomato paste) to make stock: 




See the time on the stove clock?  I'd started the stock around 1 a.m., and it was 3:23 a.m. when the dog woke me up to go outside because there was a small herd of deer in the front yard.  I'd fallen asleep on the sofa, but after I took Dex out into the cold night air for a minute or two to let him chase those deer back into the woods, I walked back into the house and thought to myself: those must have been the happiest geese when they were alive, because this stock smells even better than veal stock does when it's cooking.  No joke.  I don't know what it is about goose bones or those geese in particular, but there's something about how great this goose stock smelled, I decided to camp out on the sofa for the rest of the night to smell it as it simmered.  Didn't want to be further away from it, upstairs in my bedroom.  I drifted off to sleep lulled by the smell, and wasn't even pissed off when the oven timer went off a few hours later at 6 a.m. to get up to strain and cool it.  In fact, the very smell of it put a spring in my step the entire long weekend.  So, remember... you read it here first: Goose stock is a natural mood elevator.  I'm totally gonna pitch an article to JAMA about it.


Now that I was awake, I had a lot of sous-vide-ing to do.  First up?  Oranges for orange sauce:


Just one orange, quartered and seeded, with some grapeseed oil, salt, and sugar, cooked sous vide at 190F/88C for 3 hours.  Then blended, strained, and some orange juice whisked in before straining again:




Next in the 190F/88C water bath go turnip cylinders, and sweet potato half-moons (both with a little goose fat):





After the vegetables were done (in just 45 minutes), I plunged them -- still in their bags -- into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process, and then stored them (still bagged) in the fridge until it was time to reheat and serve them.

Next into the water bath?  The goose legs.  I rinsed off the cure and put them into two Ziploc sous vide bag with some goose fat.  Four hours at 190F/88C:


I cooled them -- still bagged -- in a bowl of ice water, and then peeled off the skin (to use in stuffing later) before gently removing the meat from the bone.  I saved the meat in the fridge, and used it in the stuffing later.

The last thing to sous vide were the two goose breasts.  I rinsed off the cure, bagged them with some goose fat, and cooked it at 138F/59C for just 20 minutes.  I cooled the breasts (still bagged) in yet another bowl of ice water, then put the bag of now-cooked goose meat into the freezer overnight.

The next day, I took it out, and cut some thin slices, which went back into the freezer until it was time to plate and serve:

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The next day, I made the stuffing.  I sweated onions, celery, leeks, garlic, and fennel in some goose fat for about 10 minutes, and then let the mixture cool to room temperature.

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When the vegetables had cooled, I folded them in with bread cubes, eggs, goose stock, toasted celery seed, orange zest, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and goose leg meat, and some goose fat.

I coated a 9x13" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, and laid down the skin from the goose legs.

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And just as I was spooning the stuffing mixture into the pan, my neighbor texted to tell me that not only did she have laryngitis and a sinus infection, but also that her younger son, Carter, had gotten a concussion the night before in a snowboarding accident.  Add that to her son Grant's (of the famous Grant Tipton Day, and who I made eat really awful lobster jelly) broken arm from when he was hit by a car a few weeks ago (yeah, that happened, too, during Carol's Really Bad Weeks Where Awful Things Happen To People She Cares About), I decided to change plans a bit.

Instead of tamping down the stuffing and refrigerating it overnight and finishing the dish the next day, I was going to have the Tiptons over for dinner that night and serve this dish as if it were a real dinner, instead of a tasting-size portion.  Into the oven went the stuffing...

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It needed to bake for 45 minutes to an hour in a 375F-degree oven.  I put it in, set the timer for 50 minutes, and went upstairs to pay bills and do some work.  Just as I was finishing an email to a client, my nose intervened and I could tell the stuffing was done. I walked into the kitchen, and blammo -- only one minute left.

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That is one of my most favorite things about doing this blog and French Laundry at Home.  It's really honed every single one of my senses, and I can now cook a lot of things without using a timer because I can tell the precise moment that something is done.  Sweet, savory, you name it.  I might not seem like a big deal to most people, but I get a kick out of it every single time. 

I took the stuffing out of the oven, lifted the foil that had been covering it, and GRANT ACHATZ ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS?!??!?!!?  Just when I thought goose stock was the best smell in the world comes this most remarkable stuffing.  Goose, orange, garlic, fennel, onion, nutmeg.... AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAA!!!!!! I jumped up and down like a giant freakin' dork, clapping my hands, and dancing around the kitchen like I'd won the lottery.  Which I kind of did, culinarily.

I'd abandoned the book's instructions at this point, and decided I was just going to pull the rest of the meal together on my own without the 500F-degree river stones and aroma bowl (didn't need it; the food was intoxicatingly beautiful-smelling on its own).  I put the frozen goose breast slices under the broiler to warm them.  I whipped up some celery root purée (because I'm still kind of obsessed with it from the venison dish), and reduced a combination of goose stock, veal stock, red wine, port, salt, pepper, and a hint of sage (with a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg) as a sort of gravy.  I figured we needed something green, so I made a salad of mâche with caramelized shallots and sautéed green beans (frozen fresh over the summer and defrosted for the salad) with a fig-mustard vinaigrette.  I squeezed a small pool of the orange sauce under the turnip and sweet potato pieces.  And, the pièce de résistance: seared cubes of foie gras.

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This, my friends, is one of the best meals I have ever made in my entire life.  From start to finish, it took nearly four days to create this plate of food, and every single minute was worth it.  From the way the goose stock smelled, to my nose-timer, to being able to whip up celery root purée and a sauce to go with it, to the way the orange zest transformed the stuffing way beyond my expectations, to just being able to adapt to changing circumstances... that is why I love cooking my way through books that intimidate me.  It builds core skills.  It teaches me new things.  It instills a sense of pride and accomplishment.  It gives me new milestones to celebrate on this path to perfecting a craft. 

But most of all, it has given me the ability to say "hey, it sounds like life sucks for you guys right now; why don't you come over for dinner tonight" and be able to include foie gras, goose leg confit, and cured goose breast in my comfort food repertoire.

That is why I keep pushing myself with this book.  The training I'm getting yields the most satisfying results when I least expect it.  And those unexpected moments of satisfaction, pride, and being able to care for other people makes life a little bit sweeter, doesn't it?

We ended the dinner with a pint or two (or, um, three if I'm being honest) of Jeni's Ice Cream, and a salad of white grapefruit, pink grapefruit, blood orange, and cara cara orange with basil-lime sugar.


Oh, and the little bonus moment that came just as I loaded up the dishwasher at the end of the night?  It started snowing.

A very good long weekend, indeed.

Up Next: Life, on the Line giveaway.

Resources: Geese from Daniel Shirk at Pecan Meadow Farm; veal stock from my freezer; produce,  aromatics, and gluten-free prairie bread from Whole Foods; spices from my pantry; blade mace from Terra Spice; foie gras from Hudson Valley Foie Gras; David's kosher salt; Domino sugar.

Music to Cook By: Fitz and the Tantrums; Pickin' Up the Pieces. I can't NOT move when I hear "Breakin' The Chains of Love" and I can't NOT picture "Don't Gotta Work it Out" as a great, semi-drunken break-up anthem sung loudly with friends in a bar as it plays on the jukebox.  You guys, this is a really great album.  Great to cook to, great to clean to, great to drive to, and would be the perfect background music at a dinner party or a night hanging out with friends, having a few beers or a bottle of wine and some noshes.  Can't recommend it enough.

Read My Previous Post: Some links, some love, and a little something for YOU

February 21, 2011

Some links, some love, and a little something for YOU!

Oh, you guys... THANK YOU so much for the kind emails, Tweets, and messages of all kinds re: my crappy January and February. Things are starting to turn around and get better, so I'm thankful for that. 

I spent the past four days working on an Alinea dish I'm still writing about.  Yes, you read that correctly: FOUR DAYS.  It's a doozy.  I'll let you figure out what that means.

So, while I'm still plugging away at that, let me share a few links with you:

Chicago Tribune: "Making Chicago's Top Chef: Grant Achatz has reached the summit of the culinary world with Alinea. But what did it take to put him there?"

New York Times: "The Perfect Menu.  Now Change It."

And, if I can self-pimp for a minute?  Saveur magazine chose me as one of their "Site(s) We Love" and I'm so, so honored, because I love them right back.  And, all of you for reading the words and the things and the stuff.

*   *   *   *   *

Because I'm in a good mood, I wanna do a little giveaway.  In the mood for an iTunes giftcard?  Thought so.

In the comments, tell me what you cooked this weekend.  Or, what you ate.  Did you have the day off Monday?  Were you a lazy slug?  Did you tackle your to-do list?  Did you go out of town?

So yeah... it's just me being nosy.  Hit me up in the comments, and tell me how you are, what you're cooking and eating, or what you did or did not do this past weekend.  Let's get caught up.

There's no right or wrong answer, and I'll choose a winner at random.

Be back soon... and you'll see what happens to these guys:


February 14, 2011

Venison, encased in savory granola

A friend's divorce.

Another friend's broken engagement.

Two colleagues diagnosed with cancer; one of them dying just days after being diagnosed.

A third friend's cancer rages back, forcing her to be admitted to hospice care.

Work frustrations and humiliations that in light of everything else are so minor, and yet kicked me while I was already down.

It's been a hellish three weeks since I last logged onto this blog and, as a result, on Saturday I needed to cook.  I needed to do something tactile and productive that didn't require a lot of thinking.  I needed to make my kitchen smell like someone actually cooks in it.  I needed to feel the weight of my knife in my hand.  I needed to follow my instincts.  I needed to feel like I could do something right.  I needed to focus on something other than the outside world.  I needed to have my friends around my dining room table.  And, I know this sounds strange, but I needed to hear the comforting white noise the dishwasher makes as it's doing its thing.  All of this brought be back to center -- or at least as close to center as I ever get -- and set the tone for one of the most relaxing Sundays I've ever had.

Here's to good health, comfort, friends, support, and sanity.  All things I'm incredibly lucky to have.

*  *  *  *  *

When I originally planned to make this dish, I hoped I'd be able to go hunting with a friend of mine and bring home a nice deer loin to use in this dish.  Sadly, the timing didn't work, and I had to look elsewhere for a loin.  If I didn't live in such an uptight, hippified town, I'd just shoot one of the dozens of deer that stroll through my yard every night.  But alas, I cannot.

Thankfully, Wegmans carries D'Artagnan products, so I didn't have to look very far.



I covered the venison pieces with a wet paper towel and stored them in the fridge while I prepped everything else.

The granola the venison gets encased in made me drool just by looking at the recipe.  Onions and celery root and cherries and pistachios and rice?  Aaaaaahhhhhh....

I puffed (a.k.a. deep-fried) some rice:



Then, I peeled and thiiiiiinly sliced some celery root:




Oh, and by the way? This dog of mine? LOVES VEGETABLES.  As I started slicing the celery root, he darted out from under the pile of blankets he likes to burrow and gave me this face:


So, of course I gave him a few slices of the celery root (which he gobbled down in no time).  The rest got tossed in cornstarch and deep fried in canola oil at 275F degrees for a few minutes:



This onion got the same treatment:





I roasted some oats in the oven for 10 minutes, chopped some pistachios and dried cherries, and tossed them in a bowl with the celery root, onion, and rice.  Then, I added some salt, pepper, allspice, and a mixture of melted glucose and honey, and ended up with this:


I let it sit out at room temperature while I made the celery root purée.  I peeled and cubed a medium-sized celery root, and simmered it in heavy cream for about 30 minutes.  Then, I poured everything into the blender and puréed the heck out of it:



I pushed it through a fine-mesh strainer.  You'll see the final purée in the plating photo at the end of the post.

The last prep step I had to take was making the cherry sauce to spoon over the celery root purée.  This lovely small saucepan contains dried cherries, ruby port, and cabernet sauvignon.  I brought it to a boil, then simmered it, then added veal stock, brought it up to a boil, then reduced, strained, and reduced further.  You guys?  I kind of want to marry this sauce.


Preheated the oven to 400F degrees and started to get the venison prepared.  Into 2" ring molds went some granola:


Then, the venison:


Then, more granola:


I put it in the oven for three minutes, then flipped each cylinder using an offset spatula and cooked it for another three minutes.  I could tell it wasn't going to hold up like the one in the photo in the cookbook, but I really didn't care.  You know why?  'Cause this smelled amazing.  Really and truly.  I couldn't wait to eat it... I didn't care what it looked like, 'cause I knew it would make me really, really happy as soon as it was in my mouth.


One little note before we get to the money shot: there's a "toasted oat bubbles" component to this dish that I failed pretty miserably at.  I roasted the oats, steeped them in milk and water, then strained them.  When I went to add the salt and soy lecithin (it's what makes it bubble), I couldn't find it in the pantry, and realized I'd ordered more agar agar instead of soy lecithin (duh), so I couldn't make it foam.  I put it into a siphon canister and discharged an NO2 cartridge, thinking I might be able to rescue it that way, but you'll see in the photo that it just looks like milk that someone blew bubbles into using a straw.

But everything else is pretty......


The green garnishes are chives and micro sage leaves.

You'll see the venison is not 100% encased in the granola.  You'll also note that I 100% don't care. 

This was really, really good.  Everytime I have celery root purée in a restaurant, I'm reminded of how much I love it, and yet I never make it at home.  That's stupid.  It's so good, and so freakin' easy to do.  I need to make it more often.  The cherry-wine-veal stock sauce was ridiculous.  The venison was tender, and the granola?  Wow-effing-zers.  I have leftovers and plan to eat it with some duck I've got ready to roast later in the week. Even the oaty milk was good, and bolstered the light heartiness of this plate of food.

It was a lovely dish on a chilly night with my dearest neighbor friends, and it made everything in the world alright again. 

Exactly what I needed.

Up Next: Goose, blood orange, sage, roasting goose aromas

Resources: Venison from D'Artagnan; veal stock from my freezer; Lundberg rice; 365 canola oil; produce and aromatics from Wegmans; Hodgson Mill cornstarch; David's kosher salt; Bob's Red Mill oats; allspice, pistachios, and dried cherries from the TPSS Co-op; Toigo Orchards honey; Natural by Nature heavy cream and milk; Sandeman ruby port; Jericho Canyon 2006 cabernet sauvignon.

Music to Cook By: Duran Duran; All You Need is Now. It's almost better than Rio.  I'm not even kidding.  I love this album so much.  Though, I caution against listening to it whilst driving on the highway, 'cause it makes you wanna go kinda fast, which might mean a speeding ticket. (damn it)

Read My Previous Post: Salsify, smoked salmon, dill, caper -- casserole-style

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