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Aspirational Libations: The Rum Steak by Julien Escot at Papa Doble

We are not natural enthusiasts of novelty beverages; indeed, we (the royal we) may be called puritanical by some, but we generally prefer cocktails that were invented long before we were born. Let’s face it, a Martini or a Sazerac just outrank a Redbull and Vodka. I once saw a group of girls tossed out of one of my favorite bars for asking for tequila shots. The bartender leaned over and hoarsely stage-whispered, “This is a grown up bar. We do whiskey, and we do beer. If you want tequila shooters and Redbull, you want the Blarney Stone down the street. Come here when you’ve learned to drink like grown-ups.” And out they went, buzz deflated, to party with teens from the outskirts.

But thanks in part to knowing Shawn Soole of Little Jumbo, also known as Liquid Revolution, we are broadening our horizons somewhat. I mean, the last time I saw the man make a Martini he used liquid nitrogen, and water that he’d distilled himself. This is the bartender who invented the Grilled Cheese Washed Rum and the Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Martini, which got so much media coverage that now he refers to it as “that bloody cocktail.” So, he is a horizon-broadener of the first rank, because it’s impossible to resist the tasty if deranged things he mixes up.

In any case, our good friend Bart Calendar, he who lives a lifestyle which literally embodies the word “aspirational,” has introduced us to a cocktail so crazy, yet so dazzlingly tasty-sounding, that we simply must try this at home. It is called the Rum Steak, it has rum and steak in it, and it comes from Papa Doble in Montpellier, France.

NSFVegans!

The Rum Steak from Papa Doble

The Rum Steak from Papa Doble

Ingredients:

  • 2oz aged rum
  • 0.2 oz absinthe (yes, it’s a fiddly recipe and everything’s better in ml but I figured you’d want the ounces)
  • 0.4 oz homemade vanilla & spice maple syrup
  • 4 drops Peychaud’s bitters
  • 0.2 oz acacia honey infusion
  • 1 slice fresh beef, cooked according to instructions below.

Stir all the ingredients with ice in the mixing glass and strain into a chilled old fashioned. Garnish with a baked slice of beef marinated in homemade acacia honey infusion.

Now, here’s the backstory, ie how to make the spiced maple syrup and acacia honey infusion…

Vanilla and Spice Maple Syrup:

To prepare 17oz: in a saucepan with maple syrup 17 oz, cajun spice 3 bar spoons and separated (ie seeded) vanilla 2 pods. Leave to simmer and fine strain.

Acacia Honey Infusion Beef Slices:

Mix acacia honey 3,5 oz and angostura bitter 5 dashes. Spread homemade acacia honey infusion over a slice of fresh beef. Bake it in the oven for 4 hours at temperature of 60°C.

Yes, it does sound like hella work, but it also sounds absolutely amazing. I’m going to ask Bart for a debrief after he has one (or quite possibly more) of these on his next visit to Papa Doble. By the way, it retails for $17.

Who says food’s not IMPORTANT?

Let them eat brioche if we run out of cake

Let them eat brioche if we run out of cake

Nobody in Ethiopia or France, that’s who.

To Market, to Market with Jean-Georges

Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Heather Watson

Chef-Owner Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Blogger Heather Watson

Actually, as you can see there were no hogs involved in the Winedown event at Market, the Vancouver outpost of the Jean-Georges empire (unless you count the people who tried to scarf more than their share of the truffle pizza). It’s a strange fact but a fact nonetheless that now that I’ve got a blog with “food” right there in the name (scroll up and confirm for me that I’m not just hallucinating this, okay?) I get dozens of invitations to cocktail events and none at all to foodie events.

Fortunately for my liver, Market changed my luck with their invitation to the Winedown event, at which actual food was served. It still counts, even if the invitation came through the bartender, right?

There were cocktails served, too, and very tasty they were although I have to say the Palaciosour was something I’d order again whereas the Basablanca comes across as just a too-tart, much more labour-intense Tom Collins.If the lemons in yours were sharper than the lemons in the test batch as mine were, you were hooped unless you wanted to go back and ask them to splash in some simple syrup or something, which is a bit like sending your food back to get some ketchup on it. I know it’s heresy, but sometimes making drinks in a pitcher and sampling the pitcher before pouring is more likely to result in consistent quality. At a posh event, people want them made individually; the problem is, there’s no time to test them this way. One must strike a balance between practicality and pizazz.

The Palaciosour was a nice sour (and not too) but the float of rich, hemoglobinesque red wine completely made the drink. The interplay between the bitters, the citrus, the refined whisky and the wine added an almost electric dimensionality to the experience that made it something special. It also looks pretty wicked, as the Rioja remains floating instead of mixing in with the rest of the drink.

UPDATE: added the decimals into the recipes. Darn proofreading!

Basablanca

.75 oz Telmo Rodriguez !Basa” Rueda.

.5 oz Victoria Gin.

.5 oz St.Germain.

.25 oz Fresh Lemon Juice.

2 dashes Fee Brothers West indian Orange Bitters

combine ingredients and shake with ice

double strain into a coupe

*garnish with zested lemon peel

Palaciosour

.5 oz Alvaro Palacios !La Vendimia” Rioja.

1.5 oz Centennial Rye Whisky

.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice.

.25 oz Fresh Lime Juice.

.75 oz Sugar Syrup.

2 dashes Fee Brother Plum Bitters

2 dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters

combine Rye, citrus juice, sugar and bitters and shake with ice

double strain into an old fashioned glass

top with ice

float wine on drink surface

*garnish with brandied cherry on rim

And, didn’t I say something about food? The food was (as should be the case at one of Jean-Georges’ places) marvelous. Truffles don’t really float my boat, and thank GOD I finally found something expensive that I don’t actually adore, but the first item out of the kitchen was truffle pizza, and it had me reconsidering my truffle position. The truffle gave the cheese pizza an edge, a savory interest that wasn’t as overwhelming as truffles can be.

I remain, however, deeply skeptical of their celebrated truffle burger. I am a devoutly orthodox burgerologist.

For the second item, let me put this as simply as I can: the scallop sashimi with warm crispy rice and chipotle emulsion may just be the nicest thing I’ve ever had in my mouth, including my ex.

The Steelhead salmon sashimi with green chili, crushed pistachios, and mint (whatever happened to giving foods names instead of entire recipes?) was equally marvelous. It’s not easy to do foods that retain their individual component flavours while working together perfectly, and while this sounds strong, it was in fact subtle and perfectly-balanced.

The raw tuna with wasabi cream cheese and pickled ginger pizza was fresh and, again, well-balanced, but it made me wonder why some foods were sashimis and some were just pedestrian old “raw.” I suspect the salmon and scallops slept with the chef. The dish was radical, but very successful.

Rice cracker crusted tuna with a citrus-sriracha emulsion was my second-favorite of the night, even though I am allergic to the word “emulsion” outside of physics class. I’m a big fan of contrasting, bold flavours, and so was pretty much in heaven all night.

It was a good reminder that there is more to wine cocktails than sangria (or that lame excuse for white sangria that’s really just cheap white zin watered down with some orange slices in it, and Yaletown, I AM LOOKING AT YOU) and that less-alcoholic cocktails pair better with food, particularly after the second round.

Cauldron Bubble

Why are Kathy and Bernard the ideal dinner guests? Because they bring their own dinner.chervil1.jpg

Saturday night Bernard braised a rack of pork in a marvelous dozen little artichokes, a few golden beets, garlic, chicken stock, white wine and some fresh chervil (also known as “gourmet’s parsley”). The sweetness of pork and beets nicely balanced the artichoke’s natural bitterness.

He cooked it in a huge cast-iron oval Dutch oven resembling the iron-clad USS Monitor. Manufactured by the venerable French ironmongers Cousances, now owned by Le Creuset, the pot seemed to lend its own unique flavors to the stew.

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Infinitesimal remains from dinners of yore boil and bubble imparting dark magic to the cauldron’s charmed ingredients.macbeth.JPG

Fillet of a fenny snake
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog

How can a pot contribute to flavor? Because it is never washed with soap.

While Kathy, good American girl, dutifully scrubs kitchen pots with soap and pad, Bernard the Frenchman gives his iron pot one hot rinse and calls it quits until tomorrow.

Divine Julia

Yum.

That’s the watchword for the new Nora Ephron movie, Julie & Julia, in which Meryl Streep once again proves herself to be the screen actress without peer. Like the food she prepares, her performance is simply scrumptious.

“What do you like to do?” Paul asks Julia.

“Eat!” she says with her inimitable hoot. “I like to eat!”

And from this moment of insight, as simple as it is penetrating, a woman accustomed to getting things done set about to change the way Americans eat.

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But how did Julie Powell swing this book deal and then this movie deal? To be portrayed by Amy Adams, and to garner Meryl Streep as your star takes moxie.

Amy Adams bubbles with her usual performance – perky and cute – with an occasional dramatic reach into pouty and cute. The angst of wanting to be a writer, however, is nowhere shown convincingly on screen.

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Having taken a look at Julie Powell’s blog, however, Mr. Henry thinks perhaps Amy Adams may have been appropriately cast after all. It’s no wonder Julia dismissed Julie. Julia was a serious person, someone who wouldn’t waste her time or yours. No matter the subject, Julie writes sentences that are perky and cute spiced here and there with swear words. Like red pepper flakes on overcooked broccoli, it’s both overdone and under-imagined. The tone is breathy, squishy and, most damning, cheerful.

That Julie learned how to cook through Mastering the Art of French Cooking and took along thousands of readers along with her, however, is indeed commendable. Learning to cook enriches your life and the world around you. If you cook with what the French call intelligence, that is, practical good sense, you will perforce buy good local food which in turn promotes markets for that food.

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Mr. Henry is not a jealous person but he wonders whether or not Judith Jones, famed Knopf editor, might possibly work him into her schedule. He’s thinking of which actor might portray him in the movie. Tyrone Power, Jr., perhaps?

A hash of things

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This is the story of a duck that became a ham but failed to find happiness roasted atop lentils. Chopped into hash and sautéed in two spoons of its own pure white fat, however, the duck found bliss as simple peasant fare.

Following instructions has never been one of Mr. Henry’s signal virtues. He subscribes to the well-worn opinion that “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” an argument applicable to husband or father, young or old. When banging kitchen pots and pans, a real man resents the intrusion of recipes. This applies equally when asking directions from his car.

What to cook for Valentine’s Day? What would be rich, robust, and lusty? Chocolate soufflé is well established, perhaps too well established.lentilsduck.jpg

Mr. Henry decided to do duck, a dish he rarely attempts principally because its stubborn flesh refuses to become tender. Either it emerges undercooked – chewy and bloody – or it emerges overcooked – dry and tough – its rich dark flavor forever lost in murky, carbonized grease.

For help Mr. Henry turned to a platter of figs, his favorite new cookbook.

After cutting away a thick winter’s layer of fat and skin, leaving only a modest covering, he brined duck sections for two days and then boiled them for 45 minutes. The results were neither beautiful nor appetizing.

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In the leftover duck stock he cooked lentils which were quite tasty. Then he sautéed a mirepoix (diced carrots, celery, and onion) in duck fat. Mixed into the lentils, the result was scrumptious, precisely fulfilling the requisite Valentine profile of a rich, robust and lusty meal.baked-beans.jpg

Because the duck hams were dry, oh so dry, Mr. Henry put the brined, boiled, and baked fowl out of its overwrought misery. He chopped the flesh into hash, giblets and all. Mixed with lentils and reheated in a skillet (with another tablespoon of duck fat), the mishmash magically transformed into a wintry romance.

The remaining ham stock will be used to make Boston baked beans. The remaining pint of rendered duck fat, Crisco of the gods, snowy promise of singular flavor, will be used to coat duck legs for that ultimate slow-cooked taste delight – confit – or else to make the very best fried potatoes.

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Demi-glace

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When Lorna went into surgery for the second time in as many weeks, Mrs. Henry knew she had to prepare something delicious and nutritious, something to awaken an appetite numbed by anesthesia, an instant elixir to restore every weary faculty.

Like an Olympic competitor, Mrs. Henry dug deep.

From her mental recipe box she plucked a classic French veal stock equally serviceable as a demi-glace for vegetable dishes or as the secret flavor ingredient to any meat sauce or ragout.

Auguste Escoffier invented the versatile veal stock. Neither sweet nor salty, neither bitter nor sour, veal stock adds flavor and body to nearly any preparation. My Phuong makes this stock and freezes it in ice cube trays. She adds a single cube as a final touch to french beans or mushrooms. The results are sensational.
escoffier.jpg

Lorna drank two cups spoonlessly and pronounced it “worth living for.”

Mrs. Henry’s veal stock

2 veal shank bones (quartered by the butcher)
2 stalks of celery
1 onion, quartered
1 turnip, quartered
1 bunch parsley
1 handful of baby carrots
crushed peppercorns
vealstock.JPG
Roast the bones at 425˚ until golden brown, about 35 minutes. In 3-quart or larger pot cover with water, add ingredients and simmer for at least 4 hours. Let cool. Remove bones and pour stock through sieve. Refrigerate. When cool, skim fat. Reheat to liquid state and pour cheesecloth strainer (or fine sieve). Add salt.

Any veal bones will do nicely. Michael Ruhlman suggests veal breast, and his recipes are highly reliable.

You may roast the root vegetables, as well, but not for as long as the meat. Leeks work very well, too, as does fresh thyme, neither of which were available this time.

The extra step of refrigerating to remove fat ensures a lean, light broth. If you want a richer demi-glace for braising, however, skip this step.

Dinosaur Extinction

Mr. Henry does not harbor a fondness for chicken. When they scratch around the barnyard hunting bugs, he does not find them adorable. When they lie headless, plucked, and baked on his dinner plate, he does not find them palatable.chicken.1.jpg

Chickens are boring, and Mr. Henry wants it known that boredom at the dinner table has consequences far beyond the complaints of middle school children.

Mr. Henry, as his more faithful readers can attest, is fond of careful, analytical thinking. He would never be contentious simply for the sake of contentiousness. When poised to take another contrarian position vis-à-vis a shibboleth such as “white meat,” the ultimate practical good sense dinner, he lets his imagination wander. He yearns to understand how such a creature could have become so important to our diet, a creature bland to the taste and revolting to the eye, a creature that lies on the dinner table awaiting only embalming fluid and make-up.

Is it normal for civilized persons to tear flesh from sinew, to separate cartilage from bone with the naked fingers? Is this acceptable in polite company?

Yes, yes, there have been positive chicken experiences in Mr. Henry’s lengthy past. He recalls a slender rooster, a mere adolescent, running in a Moroccan courtyard one bright morning whose delicious liquor so infused the evening vegetable tagine that the tiniest of meaty morsels satisfied each of the eight diners. Ester’s antique double boiler drew all the flavor from the youngster’s skinny bones. Since he had met the chop only moments before he met the boiler, not a trace of his roosterly odor marred the stew.

On his return to the aisles of American supermarkets, Mr. Henry was revolted by the odor of old chicken skin, an odor that once identified cannot ever be ignored. (Even those highly acclaimed “free range” birds share this problem.) To remove ithe smell requires the cook to rub the chicken in handfuls of salt or lemon, rinse it with cold water, and singe away any remaining little feathers over an open flame. Then you must carve away as much extra fat and skin as you can find. Removing all the skin, however, reduces the bird to a truly anodyne preparation likely to induce depression and dipsomania.

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Eaters Beware: a constant diet of chicken is no harmless habit. To explain the megafauna extinctions that ended the dinosaur age, for example, some very reputable scientists have pointed to an asteroid impact that triggered apocryphal climate change.

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After serious reflection Mr. Henry, however, has come to another,
more original conclusion. Since it is now well established that dinosaurs were the ancestors of birds, all the available meat tasted like…………chicken!

After millennia of the same old thing day after day, those poor
benighted carnivores just gave up and died from sheer boredom.

The fundamental answer to the problem of chicken, of course, is to marinate, a solution unavailable to the dinosaurs. Tandoori and teriyaki each succeed admirably by overpowering chicken with other flavors.

Lest his pouletophile readers rise up in furious anger, Mr. Henry provides a link to a quick and fun coq au vingt minutes. In place of lardons, try normal bacon trimmed of some fat. Be sure to remove most of the bacon fat from the pan before starting with the shallots. When Mr. Henry cooked it for Paul and Haesook, they showed up an hour late thereby permitting the dish to rest and the flavors to blend nicely. So, although the recipe may take only 20 minutes, an hour of repose is recommended.

Once in the hilly countryside near Geneva Mr. Henry ate a chicken that had been baked inside a sarcophagus of salt. With slow ceremony the aged waiter brought a stone mallet to the table and with one great whack stove in the crusted dome. Inside was a hugely flavorful, juicy, and aromatic bird easily separating from the bone. Watery local wines did not displease us. Other diners, however, did not seem to be so much in thrall to the experience. The overall tone of the event seemed smartly Calvinist – the worldly pleasures of poverty and hard work to be enjoyed joylessly.