Saturday, March 3, 2012

Meat Consomme with Vegetables and Egg Royales

I highly recommend making this recipe if you fulfill all of the following criteria:
1) You just got a whole mess of new kitchen equipment
2) You live a stones throw from more Asian supermarkets than you can count
3) You took Friday off and have a French-themed dinner party the next day
5) According to the DSM-IV you are at least 80% BONKERS

This is definitely food-as-art, not sustenance. Plan way, way ahead. Remember the 'bonkers' part?

Must contain the feet of at least 3 animals.

2-3 lbs. pig trotters, ideally split
2-3 lbs. meaty beef stew bones OR
2-3 lbs. veal bones (if you can find them--good luck!)
2 lbs. chicken feet
2 lbs. chicken legs, wings, or backs
2-3 lbs. yellow onions
2 lbs. carrots
1 bunch celery
1 bundle parsley
handful of whole thyme stems
~20 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
1 c. vermouth or dry white wine

1 lb. lean ground beef
3 eggs whites AND shells
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. tarragon leaves

1 medium daikon radish or 2 large turnips
2 very large carrots
handful of chive flowers (optional)
3 egg yolks
1/4 c. half and half or cream
pinch of salt

Roasting the Bones and Veggies
Not pictured: Hansel and Gretel.

Preheat the oven to 400. Chop 4-5 carrots into very large chunks. Break the celery into large pieces. Cut 4 of the onions in half, leaving some of the outer brown skins on (this makes the soup golden brown). Coat 2 of your largest roasting pans with a thin layer of oil and place the chopped vegetables and meat pieces in a single layer. Roast for 20-30 minutes, turning once or twice, until the edges begin to brown. Do not burn.

Simmering the Stock

Place the roasted meat and vegetables into the stock pot. I recommend using two, because go big or go home, right? Cut another onion in half, leaving the skin on and root end in tact so that it doesn't fall apart. Pin a bay leaf to each half using the cloves. Add the onions to the pot. Hell I probably threw in some more celery too. Cut the stems off of the parsley and save the tops for later. Tie the stems into a bundle with the thyme. Toss in some peppercorns and a healthy glug of vermouth.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for...ever. At least four hours--up to 12. Skim off any scum that rises to the top. Cool the stock overnight (or at least cool enough that it doesn't cook egg whites--I accomplished this by putting my pots in the garage with rocks on top to discourage raccoons).

Clarifying
Is it worth it, Escoffier?

This is the crazy part. If you really plan ahead, you can freeze the soup, then thaw it out in a colander lined with cheesecloth and the gelatin will clarify it for you. A nasty jiggly lump will remain in the colander and what drains out will be perfectly clear. Instead, this is the old-school method of clarifying, and it also adds flavor. It uses the acid of tomatoes and albumin of egg whites to trap the broth-clouding proteins. If you have a dog (or perhaps some livestock) you can feed them the 'raft' that is left over.

Chop another couple of carrots, onions, and stalks of celery in a food processor. Mix together with the ground beef, diced tomatoes, egg whites, egg shells, some parsley tops, thyme, and ground black pepper. Stir this mess into the cold stock, then bring it to a boil, stirring so it doesn't stick to the bottom. Your stock will basically look like upchuck and you will think you're doing it wrong.

Gradually, a 'raft' will form as the stock comes to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer for 1 hour and allow the raft to coalesce. If you are REALLY a rockstar, you will still have another day to spare, in which you allow the stock to cool again. Reportedly the raft will fall to the bottom. You can skim the fat off and pour off the resulting perfectly clear consommé. I have my suspicions about this, since the soup will turn into wiggly meat jell-o, so the 'pouring' part is dubious.

However, most of us do not plan ahead that far. In this case, remove the raft as best you can with a slotted spoon. If you do this in all one go, prepare for the next phase with a glass of wine. Try to skim the layer of liquid fat off the top of the broth with a spoon. Purist insist there should be no fat droplets, but seriously, who cares? 

At this point you reach a fork in the road: reduce stock with further simmering and salt later, or say "to hell with it" and call it good enough and salt now. Don't forget the salt, though.

Garnish

Hopefully you saved a couple of carrots and you are willing to further destroy your kitchen. If you have adorable flower-shaped vegetable cutters, cut the carrot and daikon into 1/4" thick shapes. If not, drink at least one glass of wine and cut the veggies à la brunoise. The French are sadists, so the next step is to blanch the veggies in salted water, then shock in cold water. Do this with the optional chive flowers while you're at it.

I'm assuming that you are fully non compos mentis, and you saved the egg yolks. Whisk these with a roughly equal amount of cream and a pinch of salt. Place this in a small, oiled Pyrex dish in a saucepan with a small amount of water and simmer, covered, for a couple of minutes. Surely there is some way to do this in the microwave. Turn out the remaining custard 'royale' and slice into 1/4" layers and cut with said adorable flower-shaped cutters.

You should be well blitzed at this point--after all you spent the past 36 hours making BROTH for god's sake and you fed the only food-like components to the dog.

This is what we eat in crazy town!

Arrange artfully in a bowl and pour over hot consommé. Reconsider your place in the universe.

If you really want to freak people out, make oeufs en gelée.

Next meal: cornflakes in milk.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Smoky Potato Leek Soup

Hard to believe we now have 300 posts, but no potato leek soup! This soup is almost elemental in its simplicity, and is unparalleled for winter-time comfort (and thrift). My version includes bacon and omits cream. Cream has a way of killing flavor--but you can stir in a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche at the end for contrast.

Delicious with cheesy toast!

1/2 lb. bacon, diced
1 stick butter, divided
4 leeks, washed and chopped
3 russet potatoes, peeled
1 large rutabaga, peeled
6-8 c. chicken stock or water
1/2 c. vermouth, divided
fresh ground black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tsp. rosemary
lots of salt
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
fresh parsley, minced

Begin by frying the bacon in half the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot (or pressure cooker) with a pinch of red pepper flakes. When it is just starting to crisp, deglaze the bottom of the pot with half of the vermouth and reduce the heat.

Meanwhile, clean the leeks by cutting off most of the dark green parts and the bottom roots. Slice them lengthwise and wash each leaf under running water to remove grit. Bundle them and slice crosswise into 1/4" pieces.

Add the chopped leeks and a pinch of salt to the fried bacon and cook, stirring, until the leeks soften. Chop the potatoes and rutabagas into large chunks and put them in the pot. Add the stock, remaining vermouth, and some black pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 hour (or pressure cook for 25 minutes).

When the potatoes are fall-apart soft, remove from heat and blend with an immersible blender to desired chunkiness. Season with remaining butter, more salt and pepper, and add a small dash of vinegar to taste. Garnish with minced parsley and crème fraîche.