Tag Archives: Kennedy

The News From France: Tartelettes aux Champignons

Buttery, flakey, and Deeply Delicious

These Parisian mushroom tarts are insanely delicious. Buttery, flakey puff pastry encapsulates a rich and deeply flavorful mushroom, proscuitto, port wine, and garlic mixture that has other-worldly flavor. Serve as a wonderfully warming autumn dinner or as a welcome change of routine for lunch or dinner when the holidays arrive.

 

Ingredients:

For the Mushroom Filling

1/4 ounce dried cépe mushrooms

1/4 ounce dried morel mushrooms

1/2 cup vegetable stock

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 shallots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

1/2 pound fresh white mushrooms

1 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup heavy cream

pinch of cayenne

pinch of nutmeg

coarse kosher salt

1 or 2 thick slices of dry-cured ham such as Bayonne or Proscuitto

1/4 cup port wine

1 egg lightly whipped with 1 tablespoon of whole milk

For the Puff Pastry

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

3/4 cup cold unsalted butter

Preparation:

1. Make the Puff Pastry

Start the dough

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center.

melt two tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat taking care not to brown the butter.

Add the water, salt, vinegar, and melted butter into the well

Whisk the liquid briefly to mix

Using a fork gently fold the flour into the liquid

take care not to overmix, the less mixed the more flakey

You're done mixing when the dough looks like this.

When mixed knead the dough a few times with the palm of your hand

Form the dough into a ball and chill for about two hours

Add in the butter block

Lightly flour a large work surface

roll out to a rough rectangle about 1/4-inch thick

add the chilled butter to the very center third of the (rough) rectangle

Folding like a business letter fold the bottom third of the dough up over the chilled butter in the middle third

Then fold the upper third down over the dough covering the butter. Chill for 30 minutes

Do a series of three roll-outs, three-way-folds, and chills

Pull the chilled dough-and-butter "letter" out onto a lightly floured surface

roll out to a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick

fold the rolled-out dough rectangle back into a business letter starting with the bottom third...

...then folding over the upper third

Chill for thirty minutes. REPEAT THIS PROCESS OF ROLLING OUT, RE-FOLDING, AND CHILLING THREE MORE TIMES.

At the end of the fourth roll-out leave the rolled-out rectangle without re-folding and chill another 30 minutes

2. Prepare the mushroom filling

Combine the dried mushrooms with the stock and heat over medium heat to…

A simmer. Turn off the heat and let the mushrooms cool off for 30-60 minutes, this allows the flavors to infuse.

Chop the garlic and shallots

Slice the white mushrooms

Your ingredients will look like this

Cut rounds out of the rolled-out, chilled puff pastry

And line the tartelette molds you are using. Tonight I'm using a cupcake pan because I left my tartelette pans at the bakery where I am the pastry chef.

A cupcake pan will yield about 5 tartelettes, tartelette pans will yield about 4. Line the pans completely

For decoration I used a fluted-edge pastry roller to cut out leaves. Chill the lined pans, decorations, and remaining dough while you complete the next steps

Drain the liquid out of the mushrooms in the pan. Set the mushrooms aside. Reserve the liquid

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat

Add the shallots and garlic

Sauté until golden

Add the sliced white mushrooms

Sauté until golden. Remove to a bowl and reserve.

In the same pan over medium heat melt two tablespoons of butter

Sprinkle the flour over the butter

Prepare a blonde-colored roux. For details on the production and use of roux check out http://reclaimingthegoodnameoftheepicurean.com/2011/10/10/back-to-basics-blonde-and-brown-roux/

Add the reserved mushroom/vegetable stock and stir until the roux is combined with the liquid over medium heat

Allow the sauce to chicken slightly, stirring constantly over medium heat

Pour the dried mushrooms you cooked in the stock back in along with the Sauteéd white mushrooms, garlic, and shallot

Stir until combined

Remove the thick, golden mushroom and sauce mixture to a bowl.

Coarsely chop the dried ham or proscuitto

Heat another two tablespoons of butter in the same pan you've been using, when hot add the ham and sauté until golden and crispy

Deglaze the pan by pouring in the port wine and, over medium heat scraping all the dark little flavor nuggets off the bottom of the pan

It will look like this and smell amazingly good

Keeping the heat at medium add the saucy mushroom mixture back into the pan

Stir over medium heat just until combined

Fill the lined tartelette pans just to the top. Take a pastry brush and brush the exposed top of the puff pastry lining the pans with the egg-and-milk mixture (professionals refer to this as "egg wash")

Cut circles out of the remaining puff pastry and cover the mushroom mixture, pressing the dough down over the egg-washed pastry in the pan. Affix the decorations to the top and gently brush egg wash over the tops. The egg wash gived the tartelettes their golden brown color

Bake the tartelettes in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for 20-30 minutes. If you like your pastries darker cook them until they look like mine, but just pull them out sooner for a lighter, more golden appearance. When the crust is the color you like they're done.

Enjoy with a nice, slightly spicy French red wine. Bordeaux lends itself perfectly to this dish. I would recommend Château Lalande 2001 Bordeaux, for a review of this bottle check out  http://reclaimingthegoodnameoftheepicurean.com/2011/10/05/hump-day-vices-chateau-lalande-an-exceptional-value-from-bordeaux/. Bon Appétit

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The News from France: Crab Quiche

A hefty slice of crab quiche served along Salade Verte and some fresh slices of baguette.

Ingredients:

Pastry crust for one pie shell (I will provide a recipe and technique for preparing a pie dough in the future, but in the meantime a store-bought frozen pie shell or one from your favorite recipe will work fine. I’m fortunate to have leftover pastry from a pie in the freezer)

3 tablespoons of butter

One large shallot

8 ounces of cleaned crab meat

2 tablespoons of dry vermouth or madeira

kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

3 eggs

One cup of heavy cream

3 tablespoons of tomato paste

One 4-ounce chunk of fresh Gruyère cheese, finely grated with a microplane.

Preparation:

On a lightly floured work surface work the pastry dough into a flat, round disk.

Roll out into a circle

Transfer the rolled out dough to a pie pan and pressing the edges between your thumb and index/middle fingers carefully scallop the edges of the pie pan.

Set another pie pan on top of the prepared dough and fill with pie weights. Since I do not own pie weights I use some silverware. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 12 minutes. Remove when finished and cool with the weighted pie pan on top.

Meanwhile mince the shallot. Begin by splitting it lengthwise, then...

Cut a series of lengthwise slices into the shallot, like so, approximately 1/8 inch apart

cut another series of crosswise slices across the lengthwise slices so that you end up with a bunch of 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch pieces of shallot.

Repeat the process for the other half of the shallot. Your shallots will look like this when done.

over medium-high heat melt butter in a sauté pan

When butter is completely melted and the bubbles have just subsided add the minced shallot and sauté for a minute or two until the shallots are cooked but not browned

Meanwhile dreain the excess juices from your crabmeat. I bought cleaned crab claws from Whole Foods Market, they're delicious.

Add the crab meat to the butter and shallots in the pan and sauté for another minute or two

Add a heav pinch of salt and a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper

Deglaze the pan with the vermouth or madeira

Turn the heat to high and quickly boil the liquor down for a minute or two. After a minute or two remove from heat and cool slightly.

Meanwhile whisk together the eggs, cream, tomato paste, a heavy pinch of salt and a healthy grinding of fresh black pepper. When the crab in the pan has cooled slightly whisk it into the egg mixture.

Remove the pan with weights from the top of the pre-baked pan. It should look like this, cooked a little and only slightly browned.

Pour the egg and crab mixture into the pre-baked pie shell

Cover evenly with finely grated Gruyère. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 25-30 minutes.

After 25 minutes mine looks like this. I prefer my baked goods a bit darker, but if you prefer a lighter appearance remove from the oven just a couple of minutes sooner.

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Hump Day Vices: Château Lalande, An Exceptional Value from Bordeaux

Château Lalande. Saint Julien-Becheville Bordeaux

Château Lalande is one of the most pleasantly surprising wines I’ve had the chance to taste in a long time. Coming from a region of France known for it’s exclusive, high-priced bottles many people are scared off by Bordeaux wines, and rightfully so. Well, the novice wine drinker and the well-drank wine snob can share equally in my delight for this bottle. Coming on the tail of the critically-acclaimed 2000 vintage, 2001 was a rainy year for Bordeaux lending the very light appearance and sublime quality of many of the 2001 bottles I’ve had. A decade of careful aging has tamed the spice and matured the grapy-sweetness of this wine and at $24.99 Château Lalande comes on the market as one of those very rare Bordeaux bargains. Do yourself a favor and grab a bottle…this is a value no wine lover should pass up.

Tasting Notes

Wine: Château Lalande

Vintage: 2001

Price Per Bottle: $24.99

Producer: Saint Julien-Bechevelle

Region and Country of Origin: France, Bordeaux: Left Bank, Saint Julien

Grape Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

Place and Date Purchased: Whole Foods Market, 2201 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, October 4th 2011

Place and Date Purchased: Home, West Adams Los Angeles, October 5th 2011

Appearance: Cloudy, musky-looking cranberry red, strong legs (13% alcohol)

Don't let the cloudy appearance dissuade you.

Nose: Black currant, cassis, moist soil, anise jam or compote

Taste: warm spices, very round, mellow waves of fruit contrasted by alternating waves of balanced spice

Finish: Long, cinnamon-and-nutmeg-spice finish

Overall Impression: Don’t allow the appearance of the wine alarm you. This is a very, very nice wine which is easily drinkable on its own but would compliment venison or another kind of gamier meat very nicely. Coupled with a dish like Beef Wellington at Christmas this wine could prove magical. A ten year-old left-bank Bordeaux for $24.99 is practically unheard of making this wine an extremely good value when we take its quality into consideration.

Overall Rating (Out of 100): 90 points

Overall Value (1-5 Stars): 5 stars

Label details.

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Back to Basics: The Batonnet

Today I’ve decided to explore, in depth, the classical cutting technique known as the “batonnet.” The batonnet is used almost exclusively as the “French fry” cut and can be used to prepare any number of vegetables for the purpose of seasoning, deep frying, and indulging in.

Begin by peeling your potatoes. I like to set down a brown paper bag so that the dirty peels can be quickly discarded when done.Tonight I'm going to be frying batonnets of Russet potato, however the batonnet is ideal for any type of starchy vegetable including Yukon Gold potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Once all of your potatoes are peeled begin squaring them lengthwise. Set the broad side down, secure safely by pressing down with your knuckles taking care to tuck away fingertips and thumb. Slice just enough off to get one generally flat surface lengthwise on one side.

Turn the potato onto the now flat surface of the one face and square the next side in the same fashion. Tight 90-degree angles are key here.

Turn the potato again and cut a third flat face keeping a tight 90-degree angle on each corner as you cut.

Turn the potato one final time and make the fourth face of the potato flat. You will end up with a perfect rectangular potato with rounded ends.

Begin carefully slicing 1/4-inch slices of potato lengthwise taking care to turn each slice into it's own 1/4-inch thick rectangular potato piece with tight 80-degree angles at each corner.

Continue slicing off 1/4-inch thick potato rectangles keeping tight 90-degree angles on each piece. Discard any trim (I trimmed the final piece to the left of my knife)

The batonnet is 1/4-inch by 1/4-inch by approximately 3-3 1/2-inch. To the upper right of this picture are some finished examples. Take each of the 1/4-inch thick potato rectangles, place fat face down on thecutting board and slice off 1/4-inch lengthwise batonnets.

Cut all the potatoes in this fashion. Your batonnets should be uniform, 1/4-inch by 1/4-inch strips featuring tight 90-degree angles at each corner.

Between he time of slicing and the time of frying completely submerge the batonnets of potato in cool water. This process will extract and remove excess starch from the potato thereby making betters French fries and will also prevent the potato from coloring as it sits. Batonnets of potato can be kept in the water anywhere from 20 minutes up to 2 days until you are ready to use them.

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Friday Night Indulgences: Peanut Butter Honeycomb Tartelettes

No caption necessary.

Friday evening has brought Autumn to Los Angeles in a rush of cool wind, muggy weather, warm rain, and skies ranging from custard to robin’s egg to deep auburn. The days grow shorter and as I grow into the transition the distance between here and San Francisco, the home I loved for half a decade, becomes evident to me. It’s not that I miss San Francisco, per se, in fact I’ve never been happier in my life. It’s more that I miss the knowledge that the forthcoming weeks will bring bitter wind, hail, gray skies, and the promise of a season of cozy evenings inside. As I rode my bike this morning and experienced the signs of the fall in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt I realized with an equal measure of excitement and wistfulness that I have no idea what this season will feel like.

It’s this uncertainty, I think, that made me reach for something that reminds me of what Autumn was like slightly north of here. Peanut butter and honeycomb pie feels to me the perfect balance of sweetness and warm spices that remind me of San Francisco and cool creaminess which I know will make this dessert more palatable on this muggy fall night in Los Angeles. As I prepared the custard, crust, sauce, and honeycomb I was moved to hunt through my dusty collection of CDs. I was yearning to hear Schubert’s mass in G which is, for me, a harbinger of the fall. It’s sumptuousness is the perfect match to this decadent dessert and as I cooked and listened I felt a certainty that although the seasons will feel differently here all that was good in them before will continue here and wherever my life takes me. So take this recipe and prepare it yourself, take comfort in that which tastes good and feels right.

Ingredients

For the Crust

9 graham crackers

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

a pinch of kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

6 tablespoons of butter

Peanut Butter Custard Filling

8 large egg yolks

12 tablespoons of sugar

1 1/2 cups of whole milk

1 vanilla bean

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate

2 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Honeycomb 

1 1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons of lite corn syrup

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon of baking soda, sifted

For Topping

1/4 cup dry roasted, salted peanuts

Directions for Preparation

1. Prepare and pre-bake the graham cracker crusts

Begin by measuring out your brown sugar, scoop using your measuring cup then...

...using your palm pack the brown sugar into the measuring cup.

Add the brown sugar, graham crackers, kosher salt, and nutmeg to the food processor

Purée until the mass resembles fine meal

Meanwhile melt the butter over medium heat until slightly browned and giving off a slight nutty aroma. This is called "brown butter" and by taking the time to slowly brown the butter you add an unexpected degree of flavor which will lend itself well to the graham crackers and warm spices in the rest of the crust.

Combine the brown butter and the graham-cracker-and-sugar in a bowl until evenly combined

Spoon the crust mixture generously into the tartelette pans

take a glass (I stole this one from Air France on my way home from Paris)

Press the glass evenly in the center of the mold compacting the crust mixture down

Begin pressing the crust on the sides around the cup down evenly, adding crust mixture as necessary so the crust comes to the top of the mold and forms an even, compact crust all around...

...like so.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees farenheit. Your crust-filled tartelette pans will look like this going in...

...and after baking for about 15 minutes they will look like this. Set aside and let cool completely while you prepare the custard.

2. Prepare the Peanut Butter Custard

Pour your egg yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment

Add six tablespoons of sugar

Whip on high for about two minutes. It will start out looking like this...

...and end up looking like this: light, fluffy, white, and ribbony when you dip a spoon in and pull it out.

With a small paring knife split your vanilla bean in half and...

...scrape the seeds into a small saucepan with the milk and remaining six tablespoons of sugar over medium heat. Bring to a simmer stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Once the sugar is dissolved remove the bean and turn off the heat.

With the mixer's whip moving at medium-low speed slowly (and I mean slowly) pour the hot milk mixture into the yolk-and-sugar mixture.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and turn the heat to medium

Slowly bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken considerably.

Pour the simmering mixture back into the mixing bowl

Turn the mixer to medium-high and whip for a couple of minutes to cool

With the mixer moving at medium add the butter one tablespoon at a time, allowing the butter to melt completely after each addition

With the mixer still moving at medium add the peanut butter by heaping spoonful

Scrape down the sides, add the salt, and whip again at medium until the mixture is cooled to room temperature and is evenly combined.

3. Pour the custard into the prepared graham cracker crusts and chill to set

Pour the custard into the pre-baked graham cracker crust shells in your tartelette pans just to the top.

Move to the refrigerator and chill completely.

4. While the tartelettes set prepare the honeycomb

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey, and ¼ tablespoon of water in a large saucepan

Over medium heat dissolve the sugar

Once sugar is dissolved turn heat to high. DO NOT STIR WITH A SPOON. Stir occasionally over high heat by twirling the pan in a clockwise motion. If you use a spoon you will never, ever get the burnt sugar off of it.

Occasionally use a pastry brush dripped in water and brush the insides of the pan. This gets the sugar off of the sides and prevents it from burning, thus lending a burned flavor to the entire batch

Just as the molten sugar turns a light amber color (mine is a bit dark here, due in part to the black pan I'm using) ...

...working very quickly (the mixture is about to increase in size about 50-fold) sift in the baking soda

Whisk quickly just until the baking soda is combined, then...

Pour out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper

Allow the honeycomb to cool for at least 20 minutes. It is ready when it is cool and brittle.

5. Prepare the Sauce

Over medium heat melt together the butter and chocolate (complicated...I know) and keep warm for pouring over the tartelettes.

6. Decorate and serve the tartelettes

Break the honeycomb apart with the edge of a flat metal spatula. The key is to get medium-sized bits while not turning the mass to powder

Arrange an odd number of honeycomb pieces over the custard like so

Arrange the peanut pieces over the honeycomb so it looks like they fell all over.

Drizzle the warm chocolate sauce over the tartelettes.

Serve with hot chocolate or coffee...or do like me and have some Kahlua and coffee with yours (if you have any leftover after last week's White Russian Cupcakes). Enjoy!

You’ll have leftover honeycomb. The honeycomb makes a perfectly delicious candy as-is or if you’re feeling adventurous melt some bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler and dip the pieces in it. Let set and enjoy as a fabulously decadent treat for yourself or throw it in a cellophane bag and impress your friends with a home-made gift. They don’t need to know you gave them some rather inexpensive leftovers 😉

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The News From France: Gratin de Quennelles de Poisson

Fish quenelles, or more specifically quenelles gratinéed in white wine sauce is a standard luncheon dish served across France, but most notably at the cafes and bistros of Paris. The delicate, saline quality of the white fish (traditionally Pike) is extracted and extrapolated upon with the influence of black truffles, pepper, butter, cream, and gruyere.

The richness of the dish sheds light on why the French are notorious for their small portions, but the richness of the dish sheds absolutely no light on their small proportions (which they are equally notorious for). How a culture can turn heavy cream, decadent amounts of butter, and every form of fat and sugar available into something consistently light and refreshing is beyond the scope of science to explain. All I can say is this dish will make you sublimely happy and will transform a few sad little cans of tuna sitting in the back of your cupboard into an entrée worthy of ironing a tablecloth for. Chill your most mineral-rich dry white wine and loosen your belt just a notch. Bon appétit!

Ingredients

For the quenelles:

Coarse kosher salt

Ground white pepper

4 tablespoons of butter

3/4 cup flour

2 large eggs

1 1/4 pounds well-chilled skinless lean white fish, drained well if taken from a can

1-8 tablespoons of heavy cream

2 tablespoons of chopped black truffle

For the sauce and the Gratiné

5 tablespoons of butter

7 tablespoons of flour

1 1/2 cups simmering whole milk

1 1/2 cup simmering white wine fish stock, or a combination of equal parts white wine, dry vermouth, and the juice from tuna cans, clam juice, or something of the like combined with a clove of garlic, two slices of lemon, chopped shallot or white onion, salt, pepper, and butter

Kosher salt

ground white pepper

Approximately 1 cup of heavy whipping cream

the juice of two lemons

Approximately 3 tablespoons of grated Gruyère cheese

1 tablespoon of butter cut into pea-sized dots

Preparation

1. Prepare the pâte à choux

Measure out 4 tablespoons of butter. I am using this very nice French butter as a sort of experiment to see if using a local butter relative to the dish I'm preparing has any effect on the final product...here's a clue: it totally does.

Measure out the flour by scooping the flour into the measuring cup then...

...Level off with the flat surface of a butter knife

Bring the butter to a simmer with one cup of water over medium heat

remove the pan from the heat

Add the flour all at once...

...mix thoroughly off the heat. Add the eggs one at a time and...

...continue to beat vigorously until well combined off the heat.

place the saucepan into a bowl of ice water and continue to stir for about four minutes until well-chilled.

Chill the pâte à choux in the refrigerator until ready to use.

2. Prepare the fish to be puréed

Thoroughly drain the juice from each can of tuna into a receptacle and reserve for use as a substitute for white wine fish stock

Place the very dry white fish in a food processor

Add the cream, truffles, white pepper, and kosher salt. If you don't have whole black truffles on hand (if you do I'll be surprised, impressed, and will probably want to be your friend) Whole Foods has a nice, relatively inexpensive alternative in the form of black truffle shavings in cream. It's $13.00 per can but when you compare it to the hundreds you would spend on whole truffles it's a steal and since the recipe calls for cream as it is your can replace a portion of the cream called for with the cream in the container and supplement it with extra cream as necessary.

Add the chilled pâte à choux to the ingredients in the food processor and...

Process for about a minute or until smooth

test a spoonful in a pot of lightly simmering water. Simmer for a minute or two, taste, and take note of what is missing texture and flavor-wise.

If the mixture feels too dense add a little more cream, but it is far better to have too little cream versus having too much cream when it comes time to form your quenelles. Adjust the seasoning by adding more salt or white pepper. The key is to have the spices extract the flavor of the truffles without overpowering them.

Transfer to a metal bowl and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

3. Prepare the sauce

Crush the clove of garlic with the flat side of your standard 10-12-inch French knife

Combine equal parts white wine, dry vermouth, and drained tuna water with the crushed clove of garlic, two slices of lemon, white pepper and salt to taste, and about three tablespoons of butter. Transfer to a medium saucepan over high heat

Bring to a high simmer and reduce demi sec (by half)

Meanwhile juice 2-3 lemons...

...strain through a fine mesh seive

Prepare a blonde roux by combining the butter and flour over medium heat. Take care not to color the roux. My example is dark brown because in a feeble attempt to make this dish "healthy" I used whole-grain whole-wheat flour.

Off the heat add 1 1/2 cups of the reduced white wine fish stock replacement. Mix until combined.

Add the simmering milk

Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until thickened

Thin out with the heavy cream (oxymoron, I know)

Season to taste with lemon juice, white pepper, and kosher salt. Set aside.

4. Prepare the quenelles

Over low/medium-low heat bring half fish stock replacement and half salted water to a very, very low simmer

Fill and oven-safe and fire-proof dish with 1.4 inch of the sauce, set aside

To prepare the fish quenelles take two teaspoons in your hands and fill one slightly with the fish purée

To prepare the fish quenelles take two teaspoons in your hands and fill one slightly with the fish purée

Turn the mixture over forming one clean side, then...

...form a second clean side...

...then ...finish by forming a football-like-shaped three-sided quenelle.

invert one of the spoons and gently drop the quenelles into the lightly simmering poaching liquid.

Poach the quenelles for about 20 minutes, take care that the poaching liquid remains just below a simmer. If the simmer gets too vigorous the quenelles will break apart and dissolve

Gently remove the quenelles from the poaching pan with a slotted spoon and...

...lay in a fanned-out circular design on top of the 1/4-inch of sauce in your prepared dish

The layout of the quenelles should be tight and visually appealing, in a design appropriate to the relative shape of your pan. THis dish will be served in-pan at the table.

Brush the rest of the sauce over the quenelles in the pan

grate a generous amount of gruyère over the entire dish

Move the pan into a pre-heated broiler and gratin for 15-20 minutes or until the dish is a deep golden brown...

...like so. The top will be crispy and the mass will be bubbling, hot, and highly aromatic

Serve with a tasty, complimentary contrasting vegetable, a starch like rice pilaf, a nice, crusty French baguette if you have one, and a dry, mineraly French white wine

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Hump Day Vices: Granddad Kennedy’s Anitoxident Martini

The Kennedy Family at the Marine's Memorial Club in San Francisco on the date of Ken and Jane Kennedy's 60th wedding anniversary. Granddad Kennedy is seen in the foreground with his characteristic martini in hand.

How do I describe my grandfather? He’s a decorated war hero who fought in the battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean war, a world traveler, a mathematical genius who’s lifelong career as an engineer has spanned RCA, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and Westinghouse (just to name a few), and one of the most broadly intelligent people I’ve ever had the privilege to know. His illustrious life makes the “most interesting man in the world” from those Dos Equis commercials look like a door-to-door salesman. He’s the closest thing to the embodiment of the Humphry Bogart ideal of a man i’ve ever seen and just as Humphry Bogart isn’t Humphry Bogart without his trademark trenchcoat, fedora, and cigarette Granddad Kennedy isn’t Granddad Kennedy without his trademark martini.

Granddad Kennedy imparting wisdom to a table mate at the 2010 Marine Corps Birthday Ball

Cocktail hour is a ritual observed with religious devotion and unrivaled style by both of my grandparents. It’s the time of the day when the fever of life is over and their work is done and they come together and reflect on the day, the world, and the fascinating life they live. For those fortunate to receive an invitation at 5 o’clock they’ll hear about their camel-rides in Egypt by the pool at their house in Santa Cruz. They’ll watch Granddad shoot seagulls with a SuperSoaker between sips on the deck of their sailboat Moonraker in the Monterey marina. They’ll share in the joy of feeding milk to Frosty, the sometimes-adopted neighborhood cat on the deck in Trinidad. They’ll hear my grandmother remember through guilty giggles sharing a bottle of Jack Daniels with my grandfather as they went further and further behind the iron curtain on the trans-siberian railroad and had to straighten up (with difficulty) for periodic Soviet inspections over drinks on the sunporch in Santa Maria. They’ll hear Granddad talk about living in San Francisco the summer he was 18 over drinks at the club. Wherever they are and wherever they observe the ritual one thing becomes evident to whomever joins them for drinks: people may try, but no one will ever live life quite like Ken and Jane Kennedy.

When I was very young a print of Renoir's 'Le Déjeuner des Canotiers' hung in the living room of my grandparens' house in the Santa Cruz mountains. As I would fidget in my still-too-big chair on the deck at cocktail hour I could see glimpses of this print through the glass doors behind my martini-sipping grandfather. To this day whenever I think of him in some way I see him in this picture. Eating, drinking, talking, and exploring.

Corresponding with the great man by email about my work with this blog I asked for his input and he provided a formula for what he’s called “The AO Martini”…meaning, of course, the antioxident martini. When I read about it I both laughed out load and asked myself why I hadn’t thought of it sooner. There is, as only my grandfather could imagine, a marvelous way to balance good living with good health. Below you’ll find the process for preparing my take on GD’s AO Martini.

Ingredients

1 part blueberry purée

5 parts gin

A chilled martini glass

A cocktail pick stuffed with frozen blueberries

Process

In a food processor purée a pint of fresh blueberries

Through a fine mesh sieve strain the purée into a small cup. The last thing you want is sinuous blueberry membrane or seeds floating around in your martini.

Fill your martini shaker with ice

Add one part strained blueberry purée to the ice in the shaker

Add 5 parts gin to the blueberry and ice in the shaker. Tonight I'm using New Amsterdam due to self-imposed austerity measures, but a true Kennedy martini is traditionally made with Beefeater (for a man who once pumped the guests at his party full of two handles of Llord's plastic-bottle gin, 3 magnums of Cook's, and a bottle of 90-proof raspberry liquere and called it "Champagne Punch" I'm actually on the classy side tonight)

Shake the martini vigorously about 60 times and pour into your chilled martini glass complete with cocktail pick of frozen blueberries. I'll have to settle for this pick I stole from the Fairmont because, alas, I do not have the topless mermaid cocktail picks my grandfather employs

And there you have it! As beautiful to look at as it is delicious to drink. Cheers to good health!

While preparing this post and indeed while sipping on the result I’ve been listening to the same jazz my grandparents listen to at cocktail hour. May I suggest Dave Brubeck Radio on Pandora? http://www.pandora.com/#!/stations/play/568519001521871518

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