Monday, November 21, 2011

Daube Provençale

This is a pretty simple lamb stew--and follows the same pattern as Boeuf Bourguignon. The only thing is that it takes a little time to simmer down. I have made this dish several times, and I still come back to it. Like it says in Like Water for Chocolate, soup can heal anything.

Alas, I don't have lamb or veal stock on hand. Restaurants get bones by the bag-full and make stock from scratch. I wish I could do the same. Perhaps one day I'll have that kind of time--but don't hold your breath. In the mean time, if any of you know a supplier of these kinds of stocks in the GTA, let me know.

Betsy is working late, tonight, so I'm making this for Henry and me and giving some more to our pregnant neighbours. Pregnant women need stew. The beauty of a stew like this is that you can do it many hours in advance of serving.

Daube Provençale

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. butter
3 lb lamb neck and shoulder with bones (or 2 lb boneless) cut into 2" pieces
salt and pepper
1/2 lb. slab bacon, cut into lardons
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. flour
1 Cup white wine
1 Cup strong, dark veal, chicken, or lamb stock (got some demi-glace? sneak in a spoonful)
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
1 bouquet garni
zest of 1 orange*
2 potatoes, peeled and "turned," meaning cut into small football shapes, or just cuke the damn things into large dice
4 sprigs of flat parsley

Dutch oven with cover
wooden spoon
serving bowl

Serves 4

Prep the Lamb
Heat the olive oil in the Dutch oven on high heat. Add the butter. Foam it. Let it subside. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Sear it on all sides in the hot pan, in batches if need be, until all of it is deep, dark brown. When browned, remove from the pan with the tongs and set aside.

Cook the Stew
Add the bacon to the still-hot pan and cook until it's crispy and has rendered out its fat. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Discard most of the fat and then add the onion, celery, and garlic to the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables have caramelized (browned), about 5 minutes. Using the wooden spoon, stir in the tomato paste and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the wine and scrape up all that brown stuff. Bring the wine to a boil, reduce by half, then add the stock (and a teaspoon of demi-glace if you have any). Bring back to a boil and reduce immediately to a simmer. Add the lamb, carrot, bouquet garni, orange zest, and bacon. Season with salt and pepper, cover the pot, and simmer over low heat for about 90 minutes, occasionally skimming the fat from the surface of the stew.**

After 90 minutes, add the potatoes to the stew and cook until they are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Skim the stew a final time, making sure there is no film of fat floating on the surface, then serve in a big old bowl, garnished with the chopped parsley.

Tay's notes
* I find this to be too much zest, I like it better with about 1/2 an orange zest.
** Using a spoon to skim off the foam at the top of the stew sucks, don't do that. Instead, use a small fine strainer. The point is to get the foam, which is created by nasty protein molecules you want to grab.


Sermon - Reign of Christ 2011

Here is my sermon from Sunday. I was pleased with it, and the congregation certainly liked it. Here are the texts that we read on Sunday. On Reign of Christ Sunday it seems imperative to deal with eschatology and perhaps to unpack all this stuff about "kingdom" and its implications.

I don't love my use of the word "promise" is this sermon--I just couldn't think of the right word to express what I meant about the kingdom conceived in terms of this world. I probably should have thumbed through Rowan Greer's great book on eschatology, Christian Hope and Christian Life: Raids on the Inarticulate. It's been a while since I've read my former professors wonderful book, but people familiar with it will recognize the influences, even if I didn't mention any Patristic or Medieval examples. Anyway, I should have thumbed through the book to remind myself of the arguments and language, but I just ran out time in preparing.

Something positive I noticed giving this sermon is that I felt very fluid and dynamic with the words I was using. Sometimes I can stumble a bit when I'm actually stringing things together. I mean, the meaning will usually be clear enough, but it is hard to have the elegance and poetry of written rhetoric when you are preaching extemporaneously with only a brain tree of spacially arranged concepts in front of you and the memory of what you want to say within. I think what really marks great extemp preachers is their ability to be not merely coherent, but actually poetic and concise and elegant as they speak. I don't always manage that, but with practice I've certainly improved.

One last observation, the image of the cedar tree was something that occurred to me on Saturday during some pastoral counselling. I was trying to describe to someone what God's promises might mean for them--how it was something beyond the mere solution to today's problems--and this image of the tree popped into my head. Bishop Yu often talks about the connection between pastoral care and preaching, and this is another example of the truth of that.

One more point for aspiring preachers out there: notice that when I told the story of the New Yorker Cartoon, I didn't assume I would get a laugh out of people. Remember that the original joke was essentially a visual gag, and those are very hard to convey verbally in a way that will get real laughter out of people. But I didn't need people to guffaw to get immediately into this notion of the two conversations happening.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Foie Gras aux Pruneaux

I made this dish for some friends the other day. It was the first time I've ever cooked foie gras, and I must say that was intimidated by the ingredient. It's precious, and delicate. So I decided to go for a simple preparation and let the one ingredient be the star. the results were spectacular. This is both easy and incredibly delicious.

Expensive? You'd spend as much or more on the main course. Or perhaps two bottles of wine. So, not so bad in those terms. I got my piece of lobe from Pusateri's. I might look for some other sources next time.

Immoral? Well, if the ethics of foie gras really bother you, you can get "foie gras" made cruelty-free from Quebec. I don't know if it really tastes the same. People have been fattening fowl in this manner since at least 2500 BC. There have been studies done that have supported either side, so the jury is out about whether this really causes the animals any distress or not. Keep in mind that ducks and geese don't have a gag reflex, and often store food in their throats as part of the digestive process. So, from what I've read, I suspect that this method of producing food is no more cruel than any other meat product. Anyway, it's delicious: rich and buttery.

Foie Gras aux Pruneaux

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

8 Prunes
1 Cup (225 ml) port
2.5 oz. (70g) fresh foie glas - cut into 4 slices
salt and pepper

small bowl
heavy-bottom saute pan, preferably cast iron
slotted metal spatula or fish turner
wooden spatula

Serves 4 (What the hell-make it for 2 and pig out)

Place the prunes in the small bowl, cover and with the port, and soak for at least 2 hours before cooking the foie gras.

Season the foie glas with salt and pepper. heat the saute pan over high heat until very hot. Sear the foie gras in the pan (no butter or oil needed) for about 45 seconds per side. The foie glas will shrivel and shrink and kick out a lot of fat. The idea is to sear it quickly on each side until nicely caramelized and brown, without melting the whole thing away. it's almost impossible to cook this dish too rare, so concern yourself with the external color. If it's brown on both sides, lift it out of the pan with the slotted spatula and transfer to a serving platter.

Quickly discard about half the fat that issued so enticingly from the foie, then add the soaked prunes. Using the wooden spatula, stir in a little of the soaking liquid to dislodge (deglaze) any browned bits in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, reducing the sauce, then pour it all over the foie gras and serve.

This dish is very nice served with a few thin slices of brioche toast to mop up the sauce. If you want to really look like a hotshot, you can also (much earier in the day) reduce some balsamic vinegar to a thick syrup and then drizzle a tiny bit of it over the foie gras and the platter in decorative Jackson Pollock patterns as a sweet-sour garnish.

Tay's notes
Cook this seconds before you serve it--and consider inviting your guests to watch you make it. The port can make a nice flambe effect when it hits the pan.