Forecast for the Future

"Every individual without exception bears a potential writer within himself. The reason is that everyone has trouble accepting the fact that he will disappear unheard of and unnoticed in an indifferent universe, and everyone wants to make himself into a universe of words before it's too late. 

Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not that far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding."

- Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Week 6, Cooking Day 6: Freedom Food

Sorry for the delay, but here is my long overdue post on February 16, my final day of cooking week.

The end of cooking week.

While most of the food I prepared during cooking week were dishes that I might at some point decide to incorporate into my diet as "staples," I decided to wrap up my week of Hypercooking with one meal that would go a bit above and beyond and into the realm of "fun as a special treat": French Food.

My stupid burned sushi, fucking with me harder.

My inspiration for French Food day came out of two recollections: 1) i remembered that I love French onion soup more than any food in the world and 2) I remembered that, oddly enough, I was given a comestibles firing torch for Christmas in 2005 which I'd used once and no longer had in my possession. From these two thoughts came the impetus to go full monty: a four course meal of French Onion soup, blue cheese-pecan-pear salad, creme brulee, and a powerful, fancy main course. Racking my brain for fancy courses, I came up with nothing, but then the idea of roast duck was floated in my ear and I thought, Perfect!

These were my recipes (click titles for links):

French Onion Soup
1/2 cup unsalted butter
5 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound grated Gruyere

Blue Cheese-Pecan-Pear Salad
1 to 2 Asian pears
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
3/4 pecan halves, toasted
2 heads Romaine lettuce, leaves only
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, crushed
5 fresh basil leaves, minced
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

1 whole 6 lb duck
1 bay leaf
1 confusing set of instructions, care of Julia Child
1 nervous idiot unqualified to cook duck
Beef stock, garlic, onion, other ingredients to season
Salt and pepper as necessary

Creme Brulee
9 egg yolks
3/4 cup superfine white sugar plus 6 tablespoons
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean

As you might have guessed from the above, my duck didn't come out so great. I didn't think out the recipe well enough, understand the totality of cooking process required, or know anything whatsoever about preparing a frozen bird in a package for edible consumption. I tried, and despite one mega drama queen "go-in-my-room-and-turn-the-lights-off" moment, I did come through with something in the end. It wasn't terrible, but it a) wasn't good, and more importantly, b) it wasn't "roast duck" (or even roasted) at all. So, bummer.

But luckily, save the duck disappointment, everything else turned out great--especially the soup and the dessert. And we made so much creme brulee that we were able to eat it for a few days afterward.

I'd also be remiss to not credit Becca for helping a lot in preparing the creme brulee ("Umm Ben, i think you want egg yolks and not egg whites, yeah...") and E-bad for talking me off the ledge when i thought duck failure was spelling the end of my humanity. Had I taken the Ice Princess's advice and began preparing stuff early in the day I'm sure I would have had less headaches but thankfully these two helped me pull off (to some degree) what was for me a very challenging task.

Here's some photo documentation--a little less thorough than with the other days because I was running around the kitchen trying to make four dishes at once:

Onions begin to cook and carmelize

Carmelized onions now cooking in shitty red wine.

The nearly finished soup is waiting to be ladled into crocks and topped with baguette and gruyere.

Sugar and creme mixed into egg yolks for C.B.

C.B. custard put into crocks and ramekins for cooking

Cooked C.B. custard beginning two hour refridgeration process.

Attempting to pull a wing off of a duck. I truly have no idea what i'm doing.

At this point I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. Nervous breakdown imminent.

Post-drama meltdown, mind lost, hunger and insanity taking hold.

French onion soup: no matter how it looks to you, this came out GREAT.

And voila, food to be eaten (finally). 11:50 pm. Note the brown meat on plate is duck.

Firing a blow torch was undoubtedly the best part of preparing this meal.

Some good brulee action.

The cracking of the creme brulee.

Overall I had a great time even though I spent too much time and money on everything, but it was definitely a great learning process and I feel much more prepared now to do this kind of thing again (and also now feel ready to incorporate one of the other three dishes into another meal). There was a lot of mess and the apartment smelled like bad duck and everlasting sushi (from the night before) for a few days, but it was a wonderful end to a truly special week.

Just a beginning sniff at the massive amount of dishes--let alone general cleaning--needed to be done.

Doorknobs having a C.B. the morning after (he missed out first time around)


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