Nemo Me Impugn Lacessitt (No One Impugns — or Attacks — Me With Liberty)
~Royal Dynasty of Scotland & Order of the Thistle (To Name Just a Few)

As expected, things have just gone totally south, no pun intended. Very worrisome with both sloppy and aggressive behavior and tirades. Where unmitigated, inauspicious chaos and dysfunction reigns.

Already, the now self-anointed Emperor Donald has threatened to send troops to Mexico; vainly tried to veto the Patient Protection & Affordable Health Care Act (passed by both the House and the Senate after public comments) which provides healthcare access to over 18 million women, men, children and the poor; said on national television that Mexico & Iran had serious problems — perhaps he should look in the mirror as the U.S. has real issues. But, you already know he does gaze intently at his mirrors in his robe with his hormoned red hair and tanned, powdered face.

Then, he degraded Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, an enduring ally of the states, and in a hissy fit as is his wont, promptly chose fisticuffs to settle whatever differences they had (c’mon man) and terminated the telephone conversation; he overtly lied to the People and press about the size of his inauguration crowd; defying Court orders, he threatened to send federal troops to Chicago and also was planning to defund the entire state of California — by many accounts, the sixth largest economy of the world; this makes no mention of the cast of characters that he has proposed to fill his cabinet, many of whom detest the office/agency/departments (or even could not name) that they intend to inhabit.

During that very same time, the Donald signed some form of executive order, without any other opinions offered, that prohibits the entry of refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations (none who has knuckled under to a “Trump property or inane golf course”) each refugee was thoroughly and meticulously vetted by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the State Department, national intelligence agencies all of which independently check each and every refugees’ biometric data against security databases. Even green card holders, given permanent United States residency and pure voting rights in local and state elections, were first hit by the ban, on national security grounds.

Naturally, there have been an onslaught of briefs filed against Trump’s actions: “(n)ot only ill-conceived but poorly explained”…from a brief filed by many previous National Security Advisors; (his actions also) “violate(s) immigration laws and the U.S. Constitution”…and “hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to hire new employees outside the United States…” from an amicus curiae brief filed by quite a few tech companies, such as Microsoft, Apple, et al.

The Tweeter-in-chief’s actions are morally repugnant and patently illegal. A blanket immigration prohibition, not only has founders of the Constitution rolling in their proverbial graves, it is flat discriminatory based upon Congress’ half-century refusal to bar refugees from inclusion based upon “national origin.” Remember such people, Emperor Donald, as the Italians, Irish, Jews, African Americans, Native Americans, Germans, Mexicans, Mesoamericans, Indians, Cubans, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Koreans and their kith and kin?

Trump attempts to wiggle out of the conundrum by invoking some obscure 1952 congressional action, still asserting that he has some form of “discriminatory power,” whatever that means, all despite his claims of the “one of the highest IQ’s” ever on earth. Do you not distrust whomever bombastically brags about just how smart they are? Embarrassing and quite often doubtful.

By the way, where are your tax returns, IQ tests and results, your P&L statements, and what do you really read (besides paragraphistical snippets)? An elementary to middle school whining president is what we get as our fearless leader? Now, we can all see how you became so shameful to your parents that they shipped you up the river to military school.

Not only does his reasoning run afoul of the due process and equal protection clauses (yes, Donald, 4th, 5th and 14th amendments, respectively) but also the 1st Amendment’s ban on the government’s establishment of religion. Remember, that Donald quoted his fervent protection of the 12th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution before Republican Senators — a clause that simply establishes an electoral college. Trump does not know nor care about his constitutional precepts. Has he even heard of etiquette or comity? Does he not know about impugning the qualifications of jurists and judicial independence? Does he have no knowledge of our system of checks and balances? A president who has little respect for the rule of law? Apparently not, on all counts.

By the way, Mr. Trump and his father, Fred Trump, and Trump Properties were accused of massive bias by the Justice Department and New York City Commission on Civil Rights for violating the Civil Rights Act. By both actions and words, he has displayed a lengthy history of bigotry, misogyny and prejudice.

An enfant sauvage, an orange, sloppy, bullying, feral child at the helm.  His only response has apparently, of course, been a crude, puerile, bunkered tweet that personally denigrates and insults a “so-called” federal judge who was appointed by GW. Speaking of GW (&Nixon), the Donald is an admix of incompetence and arrogance — but worse. It is not about being “a bad person” it concerns ineptitude. What really does Trump even knows, thinks or grasps, and please halt thy incessant during or after-hours unpresidential tweets.

So far his administration has been a soap opera, or more properly put in Trump’s words, a very sad reality TV show.

Oh well, on to more soothing grub…the word for “pot pie” made it into our lexicon somewhere around 1792.

RABBIT “POT” PIE

Preheat oven to 375 F

Pastry
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
12 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 T shortening
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

6 T ice water

Place all the ingredients except the water, in a large bowl. Add the water, mash and work with your hands and fingers so that is assembled into a solid, smooth ball. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Equally divide and form into two evenly sized thick disks, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

Remove from the fridge. If the dough is too firm to roll, allow to rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Lightly flour a work surface and the rolling pin. Lightly dust the top of a disk of flour and roll into a round about 1/8″ thick. Roll outward from the center, rotating the dough, and adding flour as necessary to avoid sticking. Fold the dough in half and transfer to a pie plate easing the dough into the corners and up the sides.

Roll out the second dough disk, again about 1/8″ thick. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate until ready for further use.

Béchamel
3 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
3 C whole milk, slightly simmered

1/4 C chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 T fennel seeds,seared and finely ground
2 thyme sprigs
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and white pepper

In a heavy medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and cook slowly over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes to make a blond roux. Remove the roux from the heat, pour in the warmed milk and whisk vigorously until smooth. Then add the stock, thyme, bay leaf, fennel seeds, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, sea salt and freshly ground pepper and simmer gently, whisking often for 30-40 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme.

Filling
1 C red potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 C parsnips, peeled and cut 1/2″ diagonally
1/2 C carrots, peeled and cut 1/2″ diagonally
1/2 C celery, cut 1/2″ diagonally
1 small leek, cleaned and finely diced
1/2 C crimini mushrooms, cut into thirds
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 C frozen peas, thawed
2 1/2 – 3 C roasted rabbit meat, shredded
1/2 C all purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten (for wash)

Put the potatoes, parsnips, carrots, celery, leeks, mushrooms and onions in a large saucepan with water to cover with bay leaves, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat and simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes.

In a chinois, drain the vegetables, discard the bay and thyme, and spread on an edged baking sheet. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

Strew the simmered vegetables, peas, sauteed mushrooms and rabbit over the bottom of the pie shell. Then, sprinkle with flour. Season again with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour the béchamel over the rabbit and vegetables.

Moisten the pie shell rim with some of the beaten egg. Carefully cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seal. Trim away any excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top dough with egg and cut three small vents in the center of the top dough with the tip of a paring knife.

Bake until the crust is a rich golden brown, about 50 minutes or more. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 20 minutes, then serve.

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Of course you know, this means war.
~Bugs Bunny (a friendly rival of Daffy Duck)

Foie gras is salty, sweet, and unctuous, with luxuriant buttery notes. Decadent, almost prurient stuff.

Foie gras, simply translated as “fat liver” in French, are fattened livers of geese and ducks. This is done via a method called gavage, feeding the animals through a tube several times a day for a few weeks, which fattens their livers to about 10-12 times normal size. As renowned food chemist Harold McGee once described, “it’s a kind of living pâté, “the result of “constant overnourishment.”

Lamentably, foie gras is at the center of another tedious and unsavory political polemic. On the one hand are producers, restauranteurs and epicures; on the other are animal activists and legislators; in the middle are the birds and lawyers. Passions have run high, and at times have been rabid. Mon dieu!

California Senate Bill 1520, a statute originally enacted in 2004 but effective July 1, 2012, prohibits the “force feed(ing of) a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size” along with the sale of products that are a result of this process. The foie gras law, as it is so affectionately referred to by some and vilified by others, calls for a $1,000 per diem fine for any violations.

Foie gras has gastronomic roots dating back to ancient Egypt and the Jewish diaspora. Outlawing this indulgently oleaginous fare, however, is not novel. Several years ago, a similar ban in Chicago was rescinded after chefs either ignored or evaded it and city inspectors were simply unenthusiastic about enforcement. The foie gras prohibition was first established in Norway and similar statutes were adopted by Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, Finland, Poland, the United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland, and Israel. The California ban is the only one of its kind in the states. Groups such as the Humane Society, the ASPCA and PETA have joined forces to oppose foie gras consumption, claiming that ducks are subjected to tortuous and inhumane treatment. A nationwide prohibition is sought. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has sued the USDA, calling foie gras a diseased product unfit for human consumption. Hearings are pending.

Ironically, foie gras production in the United States is miniscule compared to other animal husbandry. There are less than a handful of American foie gras farms, all raising ducks rather than geese, who sell not only these treasured livers but also breast and leg meat, sausages made with scraps, and down from the feathers. Just imagine the outrage, political fallout, and lobbying efforts from laws demanding humane treatment for other beasts such as cattle, sheep, pigs or chickens in this land of carnivores.

The foie gras quarrel has now shifted to the courtroom. C’est la guerre. A lawsuit has been filed by the aggrieved plaintiffs in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles seeking, among other things, temporary and permanent injunctive relief. The complaint maintains that the California foie gras law is unconstitutionally vague and treads on Congress’ exclusive right to regulate interstate commerce. The suit also contends that the law unfairly places the burden of knowing a product’s origin on the distributor, restaurant or salesperson. So far, District Court Judge Stephen Wilson has denied a request by restauranteurs and producers for a preliminary injunction until matters are resolved in court.  Judge Wilson also rejected a motion to intervene by the ALDF in this litigation which likewise foreclosed the participation of Farm Sanctuary, the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, and the Marin Humane Society, citing judicial economy concerns.

Not so much a postscript…it should be noted that Dr. Jaime Ruiz, director of Cornell University’s Duck Research Laboratory (who does not support or oppose foie gras production) stressed that “the farmers that I know here in New York and France handle the birds carefully, not feeding them above the physiological limits of the birds.” He also noted that force-feeding, done correctly, does not cause pain nor is an enlarged liver a diseased one. His opinions are shared by many.  An avowed omnivore and francophile, but ever scornful of proven animal abuses, you may have some inkling where I stand.

Rancor aside, think about melding foie gras with fine butter and slathering some on a toasted slice of artisanal bread, over the top of a freshly grilled steak or lamb chop or slipped in to impart sublime flavor to a simple sauce.

FOIE GRAS BUTTER

1/2 lb foie gras, at room temperature

1/2 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil and unsalted butter

8 T (1 stick) high quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 T Madeira
2+ t quatre épices (see below)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium glass bowl, mash the room temp foie gras with a fork removing any veins, bits or stringy tissue. Place in plastic wrap, and shape, roll into a tight log about 6-7″ in length, securing the ends. Refrigerate until firm.

In the meantime, in a heavy, smaller sauté pan heat a dollop of olive oil and butter and cook shallots until just translucent, about 2 minutes.  Drain on paper towels, place in a small glass bowl, and set aside.

Bring a medium, heavy saucepan of water to a boil, then reduce heat to a bare simmer. Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath. Poach the wrapped foie gras until soft and the fat just begins to melt, about 1-2 minutes. Retrieve and briefly place in ice water bath to cool.

Dry foie gras log, remove plastic wrap and place foie gras in the bowl of a food processor. Add softened butter, Madeira, shallot, quatre épices, salt and pepper. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process in pulses until smooth and silky, scraping down sides as necessary, about a minute or so. Scrape the mixture onto a new sheet of plastic wrap and form into a 6-7″ log. Wrap tightly, secure the ends and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

To serve, remove the foie gras butter from the refrigerator and slice into even disks. Wrapped well, the butter can be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for several months.

Quatre Epices
1 T allspice berries
1 T whole cloves
1 T nutmeg, freshly grated
1 T ground cinnamon

Grate the nutmeg. In a coffee mill or spice grinder, grind the allspice and cloves. Combine all of the spices in a bowl, stirring to mix. Use as needed, then store remainder in a tight, glass container in the cupboard.

Pourboire: consider adding some chopped figs or prunes to the log before rolling.