Wednesday, August 7, 2019

BTL in a Martini. Or BLTini.

Sometimes the world is strange and surprising. I posted this BLT in a Martini yesterday and shared it a few places. The number of responses on my page has been extraordinary, and over 500 shares weirdly, but why 1200 likes as of now in an aspic group? Has the algorithm changed? Are people paying attention to the nonsense I post? And why are there such violent protests of love and hate? Why would someone take the time to say how disgusting they think this is? It's just cured pork belly (bacon) lettuce and tomato set in a gin and vermouth gelatin with a touch of sugar. How could this be offensive? What weird chord has this struck?? The next book must be pitched now. The New Age of Aspics. Cecelia Watson says she will write it with me!

UPDATE: First time ever someone has stolen my image and passed it off as their own. And first time someone violently cursed at me because of my post. It was on my own personal page! What the hell was that idiot doing there in the first place. Obviously blocked. The numbers are still rising. 1500 shares??!! But still I have no idea why!

Another update. Not sure what going viral actually means, but over 3,200 shares the last I looked!

Friday, July 12, 2019

7-Up Cheese Aspic

Another Lesson in Culinary History. You may find an interesting recipe from the past, but that doesn't mean it's good. Case in point: this aspic from 1957. Disgusting.

Just thinking about it made me want to gag. But I made it. With Velveeta, which I've never used before. Ate a little and then gagged. (The onion sounds horrid, but you can't really taste it.)

But it occured to me that the idea was actually sound. Imagine a lime flavored cocktail nibbling on cheese and good olives. Now, if you weren't using lime flavored jello. And of course I added vodka. And real lime juice, just a touch of sugar to balance the acid. And then good cheese, a St. Andre Triple Cream. And now I totally get it. Garnished as directed. Delicious. And indeed, a salad. My guess is that the 7-Up people and Jell-O people took a perfectly fine recipe and tried to make it with their propriety ingredients and totally messed it up. There must be an original somewhere. Lesson learned: don't be afraid to make a terrible sounding recipe good - at least after you've followed the directions once.

Oh, directions: Squeeze the juice of a lime and a half or 1/4 cup. Add 1 1/2 packets unflavored gelatin. Heat 3/4 cup of vodka to boiling. Add that to gelatin. Pour into small molds (I used four very small ones) and drop in the celery, olives, cheese cubes. Then garnish with tomato and more cheese on a lettuce leaf. You could actually even add some salad dressing if you liked.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Chinese Chicken Salad Aspic

I was channeling the 60s. And fully expected it to be gross. But remarkably good! Stir fried chicken, ginger, sesame, soy, cashews, raisins, celery, mayo. Set is a riesling gelatin. Yah! #jelloshot

Thursday, June 20, 2019

ASFS Presentation

Soopa Shastra
Tourte Parmerienne
Getty Menu
Aphrodisiac Dinner
Leonardo Dinner
Central Kitchen
Platina's Pie

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Henriette Davidis Dumplings: Another Lesson in Historic Cooking

    The past few days I've been writing an episode for my upcoming historic cooking series (for The Great Courses). This one is about Henriette Davidis, the most popular cookbook author of 19th century Germany. The Romantic Era, Burgeoning Nationalism and the Construction of Bourgeois Female Domesticity. All that and dumplings. Thing is, I thought I knew what I was doing with dumplings. They're kind of like matzoh balls. Rub fat in crumbs, add egg, a little stock, roll into balls and simmer in soup, right? Wrong.

    The procedure is quite different. These are made of bread - wet and then wrung out in a cloth and rubbed. So here's my own dense sourdough bread. Then you cream butter with egg yolks. Then you whip the egg white and it all gets folded in together. I get this, light a fluffy perhaps.
    Well, trial one was a complete disaster. I used fresh bread and she said not to, nor use hot water. Oops. Trial two was also a failure. For the second shot I thought, OK, I'll use bread crumbs, dry, so they hold together. NOPE. They almost worked, but likewise fell apart and were ragged. Hmm.

   How about I actually follow the directions and don't assume I know what I'm doing? So the bread MUST be stale. You must wet it and thoroughly wring out the water. Then you must rub it. It doesn't completely obliterate the bread but leaves some texture and as you can see bits of the crust. This is what glues everything together. Formed with two spoons like quenelles. Simmered 5 minutes in chicken stock. Beautiful and delicious.

Lesson learned. Don't assume you know better. Follow the recipe! Next time I'll use parsley too, which she offers as an option. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


A Lesson in Culinary History 

Lately I have been playing obsessively with alcohol laden aspics. Think of these as sophisticated jello shots. I was overjoyed to find one such in Messisbugo's Banchetti published in Ferrara in 1549. It's basically a Capon in Gelatin. Made with a bottle of wine and a riot of spices. Here's the recipe translated by me.

Take a capon and the feet of four capons, and place them to boil in sweet white wine, until it is cooked, and when it's cooked, take the flesh, the wings, and whatever you want to cover, and let the rest boil together, and let it cook well, then place in a little spoon of vinegar, half a pound of sugar, or honey, an ounce and a half of cinnamon, a sixth of pepper, and a quarter of ginger, a sixth of mace, a little saffron, then pass this decoction through a sieve, and have your little plates with the reserved capon at the bottom and bay leaves, and pour it over, let it cook and it will be good.

When I first tried this it was with 2 packets of gelatin, a chicken breast and most of the recipe followed closely thereafter. But half a pound of sugar sounds ridiculous, so I added about a tablespoon. And more than the tiny spoon of vinegar. It was for a film shoot I did yesterday for Matthew Arnold, a distributor of a new historic recipe archive who commission this. I'll share the video when it comes out. Version number one looks gorgeous. Clear aspic, the chicken lightly poached and cut into a lovely shape, underneath are the bay leaves Messisbugo calls for. Only one problem. It tastes AWFUL! It was the pretty version I made ahead and it was showed at the end of the video. As a historic exercise: epic failure.

Happily for the video itself I followed the directions exactly. RULE #1 of all culinary history. FOLLOW THE DAMNED RECIPE. No short cuts, no second guesses, no substitutions. If you can't get the ingredients, don't make it. For this I used a rooster, head feet and all, plus the extra 8 feet. All found at the SF Asian Market here in Stockton. And I used the Renaissance half pound of sugar - which is 12 ounces x 1/2 or 6 ounces or about 12 tablespoons. Sounds excessive? Absolutely not. The second one is remarkably delicious. Not too sweet at all, but beautifully perfumed, delicate and almost evanescent in its lightness. I can almost hear the Este Dukes gasp in wonder at the first mouthful.

So lesson learned. Follow the recipe and if it means sacrificing that instagrammable image, trust me, you will be happier in having made something edible. The author always knows best.

Grazie Maestro Messisbugo!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Dashi Sake Jello Egg

My jello shot odyssey has continued all week. This is sake and dashi stock, formed in an egg shell. Perched on a cucumber. Served with mackerel and an incorrectly rolled tamago, pickled eggplant and black garlic hiding back there too. Shot in my tea house. With a tea bowl I made.