After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.
~Oscar Wilde

Most of us have all been there. La famille, je vous hais (de temps en temps), especially when these days, uncomfortable conversations emit from the table. You might imagine the awkward talk that was uttered between Trump and Romney at Jean Gorges.

Now, we know the Curse of the Billy Goat has perished ending an over a century (some 108 year drought) spell of haplessness as the Cubs finally won the World Series in Game 7 of 2016 in a rather surreal extra inning ending. But, a “W” is a “W,” and as a native Chicagoan I am elated and intensely wished to be at a local watering hole in Chitown — have been to Final Fours before and found that neighborhood venues were the best.  The food is often better, not to mention there are replays galore, both behind the plate and elsewhere in the field.

A reveler here.  Damn, the Cubs won! One for the ages. No room for pessimism now — an epic season, series’ and games.

Ben Zobrist’s run scoring double in the rain delayed 10th inning marathon, and Joe Maddon as well as a glorious cast behind them made sure. Must admit that Zobrist (the World Series MVP) and closer Mike Montgomery used to be Kansas City Royals so the result was even sweeter.

This happened to be regular fare on “Turkey” Day, partially leased from Julia Child, and plan on serving the same this Thanksgiving. No turkey, not traditional, but goose as the main course with apps and sides as the real deal.

Goose fat (the same with duck) is remarkably superb as a basting medium, so be sure to render the fat from inside the bird. Once rendered, the leftovers will keep for weeks in the fridge too. A sublime brown goose stock, for sauce, is made with the chopped gizzard, neck, heart, and wing tips, so make sure that this offal is kept, not discarded.

A 9 lb. goose takes about 2 hours to cook while a 12 1/2 lb. bird just takes about 30 minutes longer.  Your best bet is to choose a 9-11 lb. honker. A 9 lb. bird takes about 2 hours at 425-350 F and an 11 lb. goose takes about 20 minutes longer. Cook until the drumsticks move slightly in their sockets and when the fleshiest part is tined with a fork, the juices run a pale yellow.

Note: do remember that goose is roasted much like duck except that goose has the skin pricked and is basted with boiling water and/or wine and/or goose and/or chicken stock (or a mix thereof) every 15 minutes or so.

ROAST GOOSE WITH FOIE GRAS & PRUNES (OIE ROTI AUX FOIE GRAS ET PRUNEAX)

Thaw goose to room temperature. Dry well.

Goose stock
Chopped goose neck, gizzard, and heart
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 T rendered goose fat

Prepare brown goose stock in advance. In a heavy medium saucepan with olive oil, place chopped goose neck, gizzard, and heart as well as sliced onion, carrot and rendered goose fat, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf.

Allow to simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours or so, skimming as necessary. Strain through cheesecloth and a chinois, and the stock is ready to use.

Preheat oven to 425 F

Prunes
40-50 prunes
Soak the prunes in hot water for about 5 minutes and pit. Simmer prunes in a covered saucepan for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain for goose now and reserve cooking liquid for later.

Goose Liver Sauce
1 C dry white wine
2 C brown goose stock
Goose liver, minced or chopped
2 T shallots, peeled and finely minced
1 T unsalted butter
1/2 C port wine

Simmer white wine and goose stock slowly in a covered heavy saucepan for about 10 minutes, with the wine or stock for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain and reserve.

Simmer the goose liver, shallots, unsalted butter and port wine in a small heavy skillet for about 2 or so minutes and scrape into a small mixing bowl. Put both together with a whisk.

Foie Gras
1/2 C of foie gras or similar pâté
Good pinch or more of allspice and thyme
3-4 T stale bread crumbs, freshly zapped in the Cuisinart or blender
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sauté goose liver and shallots in butter, using a small, but heavy skillet, for about 2 minutes and then scrape into a mixing bowl. In the same skillet, boil the port wine until reduced to 2 T, then scrape into the mixing bowl with the goose liver.

Now, blend the foie gras and spices, et al., into the mixing bowl with the sautéed goose liver. Sometimes, carefully place the foie gras, bread crumbs and goose liver into center of the prunes, then stuff.

Prunes Anon
Prune cooking juices
1/2 C port wine
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 T unsalted butter, softened

(See below*, for finish)

Goose Fat
Chop lose goose fat from inside the goose carcass and chop into 1/2″ pieces. Simmer in a covered heavy saucepan with about 1 C water. Uncover the pan and bring to a boil. Once finished, the fat will be a pale yellow, use some to bulb over goose and then strain some of the liquid for goose now into a jar for use later.

The Goose
1 – 9 to 11 lb. goose, room temperature and dried well
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cover sparingly with pancetta slices, for moisture and flavor.

Boiling water and/or wine and/or chicken stock (or a mix thereof), for “braising” or “bulbing” every 15 minutes so as to keep the bird moist during the roasting process.

Salt & pepper the cavity of the goose and stuff loosely with prunes. Skewer the vent and secure the legs and neck skin to the body with trussing string. Prick the skin over the thighs, back and breasts, then dry thoroughly and set the bird breast up in the heated roasting pan.

Brown the goose for 20 minutes or so and then turn on its side (breast side to the rear) and lower heat to 350 F to continue roasting.

Do not forget: baste every 15 minutes or thereabouts with boiling water, stock or wine, sucking the excess goose fat with a bulb baster.  At the halfway mark, turn goose on the other side, yet continue basting.

When done, discard trussing strings, place the pancetta into a glass bowl, and set the goose on a carving board or platter to rest. As with all meats and poultry, this step is truly important.

Below* — In the interim, tilt the pan and spoon out the fat, leaving behind the brown juices. Pour in the the prune cooking juices and port. Boil down, until the liquid has reduced and correct seasoning.  Take off heat and swirl in the the softened butter, then pour into a sauce boat, sort of au jus.

After resting, serve by pulling or severing off legs, thighs, back and what remains of wings and slicing the breast somewhat thin but more thick than a turkey, then coating with goose and prune sauce.

Remove prunes, foie gras, port wine, spices and herbs for dressing into a bowl.

Below’s menu is nothing like the “first” Thanksgiving given the murderous raids, scalping, beheading and slave trading of indigenous ones, “heathen savages,” by white folks — no, not really warm & fuzzy. Later, African Americans, because they were too busy serving white people on Thanksgiving Day celebrated the holiday somewhat later, often in January to accord when Abe uttered the Emancipation Proclamation. There is a common thread here: conquering whites and their profound prejudices.

As an aside despite a couple of journals written by whites during the “original Thanksgiving feast,” no mention is made of turkey being served.

A PROPOSED “MODERN” THANKSGIVING MENU:

Appetizers (Da bomb)
Gougères and/or Arancini with Balsamico di Modena & Aioli
Deviled eggs, of varied ilks, but local pasture raised (duck rillette, proscuitto, caviar, for instance)

Beef tartare and/or sushi(purchased on the way home from your favored fish artist)and/or oven roasted oysters and/or Pa Jun (savory Korean pancakes)
Varied cheeses & proscuitto/serrano platter, local homemade pickles, capers, cornichons & toasted artisanal bread

Seared scallops with apple cider vinegar or calamari au vin or octopus tapas or tuna and avocado ceviche or moules marinieres and/or lobster bisque or oyster & brie soup

Main & Side Courses (Somewhat Non-Traditional Fodder)
Roast Goose (Oie Roti aux foie gras et pruneaux) or Coq au Vin or Braised Lamb Shanks or Braised Beef Short Ribs and if you go chicken, lamb or braised short ribs, try the sauce with the root veggies
Prune & Foie Gras “Dressing” with the goose

Caponata alla Sicilina
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Currants and/or Walnuts
Roasted Shallots
Smashed or Puréeed Potatoes or Gratin Dauphinois or Potatoes Aligotes with Comté ou Gruyère or Rice Pilaf or Arroz a la Mexicana
Oyster Casserole with pie crust, crème fraîche, leeks, bacon, thyme & gruyère (if you did not use oysters above)

Desserts (One Fine Finish)
Fresh pecan or date pies, bars or cookies and/or seasonal fruit crisps and/or
mousse au chocolat or chocolat truffes — always dependant upon guests

This list does not take into account egg nog with rum and other liqueurs, older charonnays, pinot noirs, zinfandels, red meritages and cognacs throughout the day — always remember, though, in vino veritas.

Whatever is chosen, deep sighs for souls, still.

Pourboire: Admittedly, I often braised the goose about half way up with red wine and stock (much like coq au vin), throwing in some root vegetables yet still keeping the prunes and foie gras inside. Then again, you can go the route of Calvin Trillin of the New Yorker Magazine who once commented that “turkey was something used to punish students for hanging around on Sundays,” and treat your guests to pasta carbonara (with guanciale and perhaps some pancetta) or lay out a medley of differing pizzas. You know they may be tired of poultry (turkey too). They will likely be grateful.

I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.
~Oscar Wilde

El camión.  Once she learned where the chicharrónes truck was to be found daily in the República Dominicana (DR), life became even better.  Freshly showered again, she would stealthily slip out the door to begin her quest each late afternoon, seeking the truck on foot angling for the smiling guy, perhaps even furtively. Then, that small, greasy box of heaven came home oh, so slyly for the first couple of times. She presented the rectangular, styrofoam carton somewhat self-consciously obsequious yet openly epicurean, but not coquettish. A sublime surfeit for me.

Each day in the late afternoon a similar ritual happened, almost zen-like, even if the truck were parked in a dissimilar place which likely made her search even more fetching.  I awaited, her unknowing (or so she thought) yet sort of low-keyed giddy.

Chicharrónes  first became an app and then later almost an entrée, but were an ever blissful repast — especially with a local rum & tonic or a beer and bare feet in the sand.

Chicharrónes are ubiquitous throughout southern Spain (Andalusia), Latin America, South America, the Caribbean, Mesoamerica, Guam, the Philippines. Recipes vary markedly amongst cultures and kitchens, so much like other cuisines.

CHICHARRONES DE CERDO (DOMINICAN PORK CRACKLINGS)

4 lb pork belly, thickly sliced
4 qts cold water
1 T sea salt

2 t dried oregano
2 t dried thyme
2 t cumin seeds, seared briefly and ground
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C orange juice

1/2 C canola oil

Salsa verde + salsa roja
Crema
6 lime wedges

Make slits throughout pork belly slices at about 2″ intervals, but do not cut through. Allow the pork, water and sea salt to immerse, marinate for a few hours. In a heavy, Dutch oven mix pork belly, water, salt, oregano, pepper and orange juice. Cook over medium heat until the water has been absorbed and evaporated, but there will be pork oil left behind.  Be aware of the spatter.

Add canola oil and fry until the meat has turned a dark golden brown hue and the skin is crispy.

Remove the meat and place on paper towels, let the pork belly drain and cool to room temperature. Cut into smaller pieces, about 3″ and, at the time of serving, garnish lightly with dollops of salsa verde & roja, crema, and then lime wedges.

Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.
~Oscar Wilde

From last year’s lucre alone, the often indifferent rich could have paid to feed the world’s famished, sometimes starving, children by some 160 times. In simple terms, they could flat eradicate poverty without pain, save relinquishing another yacht or vacation home.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, the world’s wealthiest cumulatively grew $524 B richer last year. At the same time, hourly wages for most Americans are not growing much faster than the rate of inflation.

To add some more fat to the fire, consider that wages adjusted by inflation of nonsupervisory workers in the retail trade have fallen almost 30% since the early 70’s; while the national minimum wage was raised a few years ago, it is still seriously meager by historical standards, having consistently lagged well behind both inflation and average remuneration levels; since the late 70’s real wages for the bottom half of the work force have stagnated or fallen, while the incomes of the top 1 percent have nearly quadrupled; hiking the minimum wage has little or no adverse effect on employment, while significantly increasing workers’ earnings; the wage and benefit discrepancies and wealth inequalities between CEOs and workers are simply astonishing now; in the wealthiest nation on earth, many workers are still mired in poverty; the bottom third of the American work force has seen little or no rise in inflation adjusted wages since the early 70’s; in no state in this vast country can a minimum wage worker afford a two bedroom apartment working 40 hours per week. For shame.

Happy New Year. Oh, and a simple dip below.

RADICCHIO CON RICOTTA E GORGONZOLA

1 C whole milk ricotta
1/2 C gorgonzola
1/3 C parmigiano reggiano, grated
1/2 medium fennel bulb, cored and finely chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Finely grated zest from 1/2 lemon
2 t fresh lemon juice
2 t thyme leaves, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 head treviso radicchio and/or endive, leaves separated
Thyme leaves, for garnish

In a glass bowl, stir together ricotta, gorgonzola, parmigiano reggiano, fennel, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, thyme, salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and garnish with thyme leaves. Serve with radicchio and/or endive.

Tarte aux Tomates

April 21, 2009

I can resist everything but temptation.
~Oscar Wilde

Admittedly, this posting is seasonally premature. But, we are being treated to a spate of euphoria-provoking warm weather that hearkens back to past tomato days…so the tarte temptation was irresistable. Alas, the allure of savory tarts! Please keep this delectable pie in mind for sultry summertime, when these red, yellow, and green baubles dangle from the vine in varying shape and size. Was that overly salacious?

TARTE AUX TOMATES (TOMATO TART)

1 (9″) frozen pie shell, thawed or fresh savory pie dough rolled and fitted to a pie dish
3 large fresh heirloom tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/2″ slices and well drained

1/4 C Dijon mustard
1 C Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated

1 T fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 F

Line the shell with foil and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the weights and foil. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes more or until light golden. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Turn up the oven and preheat to 400 F

Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and drain in a colander for 10 to 15 minutes. Spread the mustard over the bottom of the shell and sprinkle the cheese over it. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese in 1 overlapping layer. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the tomatoes are soft, 35 to 40 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the tarragon, thyme, garlic, olive oil; season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the tart with this mixture when immediately removed from the oven.

In Praise of Balsamic

March 19, 2009

To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist — the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know exactly how much oil one must put with one’s vinegar.
~Oscar Wilde

Not all too long ago, balsamic vinegar was considered an obscure Italian denizen in American pantries. Now it is hard to fathom a kitchen not stocked with this jewel.

In medicine, the noun “balsamic” often refers to a an aromatic agency that heals, soothes or restores.

Almost a millenium ago, vintners in Modena, in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna were brewing balsamic vinegar which was prescribed as a tonic and was considered a mark of class.

Balsamic vinegar is a thick, sweet smelling vinegar made from the pure and unfermented juice of grape called the “must.” Although different varieties of grapes can be used to create balsamic vinegar, the Trebbiano grape, native to Modena, is the most common.

Sweet white Trebbiano grape pressings are boiled down to a dark syrup and then aged under a strict protocol. The syrup is placed into oak kegs, along with a vinegar “mother,” and begins the aging process. Over the years, it graduates to smaller and smaller kegs made of chestnut, cherrywood, ash, mulberry, ending with one in juniper until it is ready for distribution. These varied woods progressively add a layered character to the vinegar. As it ages, much of the innate moisture evaporates, further thickening the vinegar and concentrating the depth of flavors.

Some balsamic vinegars have been aged for over 100 years. Fine balsamic, aged 25 years or more, can be sipped from a glass like Port or Madeira. Balsamic with olive oil pairs beautifully with fish, poultry, meats, vegetables, and greens.

When buying balsamic, the key word on the label is tradizionale, a guarantee that it was authentically made and aged in Modena.

Classic proportions for vinaigrette dressings are one part vinegar to three parts oil, with seasonings of salt, pepper and Dijon mustard. However, because the flavor of balsamic vinegar is lusciously intense, proportions of one part vinegar to four of oil are recommended.

BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE

2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 T dijon mustard
1 t sea salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
1/4 C Balsamic vinegar
1 C olive oil
1-2 egg yolks (optional)

Pound the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt in a mortar. In a bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, vinegar, a pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper. Vigorously whisk in the olive oil in a narrow stream until it emulsifies; taste for seasoning with the greens you are using and adjust to your liking.

Pourboire: To make a silkier version add an egg yolk or two to the vinegar mixture before drizzling in the olive oil and whisking.