fois gras

Gabriel Rucker at DeGustibus: Food & Fun!

by Anne Maxfield on November 4, 2013

Accidental Locavore Gabriel RuckerThanks to a very generous aunt, the Accidental Locavore has had the chance to take a lot of classes at DeGustibus. When I can’t make up my mind about which one to take, Emmy, the booker, is always great about making suggestions. Food is always a criterion, but often we’ll discuss how handsome the chefs are. This time, she suggested Gabriel Rucker of le Pigeon in Portland (Oregon) and it was one of the most enjoyable nights spent on Macy’s eighth floor!

Most of the chefs are big names (and they know it) but surprisingly, many of them are not comfortable cooking in front of an audience. It’s an art form to be able to connect with an audience and cook a meal (without losing a finger or two), and Gabriel was able to make it all work.

After a couple of tense minutes getting used to the quirks of an electric stove, he pulled off his version of a grilled cheese sandwich – bone marrow butter and caramelized onions. The drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar made it a sandwich to remember!

Accidental Locavore Hamachi TartareOn the things-to-remember list has to be the way he works with fois gras. He makes a cure for the fois gras and cures the lobe for 48 hours. When it’s ready, he rinses it off and shaves it with a (sharp) peeler. Amazing! It was such a good way of doing fois gras that I was looking up getting a lobe on D’Artagnan the next day. Gabriel used it to top a hamachi tartare with Oregon truffles and tangerine slices. Over the top and totally delicious!

Our main course was a rabbit sausage wrapped in bacon, or as he calls it “Rabbit in a Pig Blanket”. This was paired with an individual quiche of mustard greens and Gruyère. It was a great combination, made better with a sauce of vermouth, chicken stock and two types of mustards. Since I was the extremely fortunate recipient of the “demo” rabbit, I actually made his sauce to go with it. It was easy, a bit time consuming just because you have to reduce it, but totally worth the time. Thinking of the classic French and lentil combination, I served it with lentils de Puy and it was great!

Accidental Locavore Rabbit in a Pig BlanketAfter that was an interesting carrot preparation – baking the carrots and topping them with a  sauce of crème frâiche and almonds. Since I have had nut allergies, I didn’t taste it, but it looked great and I might try it, substituting pine nuts for the almonds.

We finished off with cornbread made with bacon and dried apricots and topped with a maple syrup whipped cream. As dessert, it was good, but all I could think of was how amazing it would be for a special breakfast.

Apart from the food, a couple of things made this an outstanding evening. First, Gabriel was an interesting and generous chef. He was happily passing ingredients around for everyone to taste and smell (and with all the leftovers, for everyone to take home). He seemed to really be enjoying himself, not only with us, but with his trip to New York. I certainly sensed that a trip to his restaurant in Portland would be a great evening out. In lieu of that, his new cookbook, Le Pigeon, is really interesting and definitely worth checking out. I bought a copy to give to a friend and when I got home and perused it, wished I bought myself a copy. Is it wrong to give a signed and slightly used book? I’ll try not to spill fois gras on it.

 

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Maison Kayser: Is There Anything Better Than Butter?

by Anne Maxfield on October 1, 2012

Accidental Locavore Delivery Bike

Butter…does anything smell better than butter cooking? The Accidental Locavore is standing outside Maison Kayser, the new NYC outpost of a famed Parisian bakery. Getting in the mood for lunch there, I was so engrossed in my French tapes that I totally missed my bus stop by two long avenues! Now, I’m standing outside, waiting for my friend to join me for lunch, breathing that wonderful smell of butter — specifically, French butter. Hunger. I’m hoping the crowd will have subsided by the time we get seated, otherwise I may have to duck in and nab a financier or some other goodie to tide me over.

Accidental Locavore Maison Kayser BreadAnd inside they are, of course, French and charming. Eager to seat me even without my friend being here yet (take note of that other NY restaurants!!), but I’ve decided to stay outside on this lovely day and breath in more deliciousness.

Accidental Locavore CroqueSo, what was for lunch? And how does the newest contender for croissant excellence in Manhattan measure up? One of the (many) great things about my friend Holly is that she’s always up for sharing food, so we decided to split the croque-monsieur and the fois gras with fig bread — pretty close to a perfect lunch, n’est pas? A croque-monsieur is one of the Locavore’s favorite sandwiches when it’s properly prepared. In concept, it’s not difficult, a grilled cheese with ham and béchamel sauce, but like a lot of simple things, every element plays a major part. This one, while delicious with a good balance of ham, cheese and béchamel, was not technically a sandwich, as you can see from the photo, lacking a second piece of bread. And since Maison Kayser is a bakery first and all the bread we ate was terrific, a second slice of bread would have been welcomed.

Accidental Locavore Fois GrasThe fois gras with fig bread was exactly that: two healthy slabs of fois gras with two matching slices of toasted fig bread. Fig jam was there to add a sweet note if you wanted. In small doses it was a nice complement. If there is a way to mess up fois gras (other than banning it), I haven’t had it. Truth of the matter, it’s one of those wonderful foods that just makes everything it’s paired with taste better!

Of course you’re going to want to know what we had for dessert and you’re going to be disappointed.  We had no room left for anything sweet. I guess we’ll just have to go back and see what that side of the menu offers!

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Accidental Locavore Pate

Not that the Accidental Locavore , or anyone, needed  a reason to make pâte, however the latest Charcutepalooza challenge is all about pâtes . And this time there were carnivores present!

In the past, one of the best pâtes, I’ve had was the pâte Grandmere from Bar Boulud. It’s not as coarse as a pâte de campagne, or a smooth as a mousse…as Goldilocks would say “it’s just right!” So, the Locavore was happy to find a recipe for it in our Charcutepalooza textbook, Charcuteriebut since I rarely just blindly follow the rules, I thought I’d “kick it up a notch.” My idea was to switch out the chicken livers for duck, thanks to our friends at d’Artagnan, and add a center medallion of some fois gras, lurking in my fridge.

Once I had it conceptualized, I’d need some reliable tasters so my friends Zhu Zhu and BJ got an email (you may remember Zhu Zhu from the crème frâiche challenge) to see if they’d be willing to give it a shot. This was also a strategic move, as Zhu Zhu was raving about a new mustard he’d just discovered, a perfect foil for the pate.

Accidental Locavore Duck LiversMaybe deciding to sauté the duck livers before breakfast wasn’t the best idea…besides having a grease splattered kitchen, the lingering aroma of liver somehow is not as enticing as bacon. However, it gave everything a chance to thoroughly chill before coming together.

After all the previous challenges, grinding the meats for the pâte was pretty easy. So easy, that when it was done, I ground some of the remaining pork shoulder and made my husband’s favorite, albondigas for dinner. Checked the mix for seasonings, and into a bain Marie (water bath — but doesn’t it sound better in French?) in the oven for about an hour. Pulled it out, weighted it down and it’s now ready for the tasting panel on Monday night.

Accidental Locavore Pate InlayFirst impression: there seemed to be a lot of fat in the terrine. Could it have broken in the cooking process? Or was it just that the fois gras inset melted? The taste and texture were good, not great. Some of the fois gras was lost and the texture of the terrine was a little crumbly. To the Locavore, it tasted strongly of liver and any taste of pork was drowned out by the liver flavor.  With a little of Zhu Zhu’s new mustard and a cornichon or two, it was fine.

For the future, the duck livers seemed a little strong, so I would cut down on them and add more of the ground pork. A little more brandy or cognac and possibly some more assertive herbs or green peppercorns would have made this more interesting. In the past, my go-to pâte recipe has been the one from Julia Child’s The Way to Cook and it’s always been delicious.

What’s your go-to pâte recipe?Accidental Locavore Pate Tasting

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What Does a Locavore Eat in the South of France?

by Anne Maxfield on May 16, 2011

Accidental Locavore Pizza and Salad

While the joke answer to what does a locavore eat in the South of France might be “whatever they want” (as long as it was grown 100 miles/161 km from where they are…), the Accidental Locavore ate a lot of great food and most of it was local and fresh. You know your locavore choices are much better in a mild climate where olive oil, lemons and other citrus, along with amazing vegetables and good wines, are all from just down the road.

One of the “old standbys,” to quote my mother, is Le Safari in the old town of Nice by the market. We often go there for lunch, usually split a pizza from the wood burning oven and a classic salad Nicoise. One of the big differences in their salad dressings? More olive oil. On our last day in Nice at Safari, asparagus with fois gras was the special and as crazy as it sounds, made a great pairing with the pizza and a glass of rosé. Accidental Locavore Asparagus Fois Gras

Another delicious thing to eat over there is steak tartare and if you’ve been reading the Accidental Locavore for a while, you know it’s always been a favorite. Frank was particularly fond of a version we discovered at a café in Antibes. It was essentially DIY steak tartare, with the chopped steak surrounded by ramekins containing: an egg yolk, minced shallot, chopped cornichons, Dijon mustard and chopped parsley. On table to mix in, Worchester sauce and Tabasco. I’m going to start adding chopped cornichons to my steak tartare and thanks to Charcutepalooza for this month’s meat grinding challenge, grinding my own steak.Accidental Locavore DIY Steak Tartare

Our last meal we went to a new (to us) place in Vence, a lovely hill town about 40 minutes drive northeast of Nice. As an amuse gueule we were served a pea puree bruleé. In a couple of weeks when the peas are local and fresh, I have to try to make this. It seemed to be peas pureed with heavy cream, topped with fresh breadcrumbs tossed with Parmesan. It looked good and tasted better. Accidental Locavore Pea Puree Brulee

For the Accidental Locavore the biggest surprise? An amazing daube de boeuf, the local version of a beef stew, served on the terrace in the old, walled town of Vence. What made it so good? The addition of orange zest (and a little orange juice?). Daube is traditionally served over tiny ravioli (don’t forget, back in the day this was all Roman territory), in this case it was over gnocchi which made it even better in my mind. As soon as we get a cool night, I’m looking for a recipe and giving this a shot.

What’s your favorite meal from the South of France? What would you like to see me try to duplicate here?

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