Monday, January 11, 2010

Series of Unfortunate Events

Morning, before the battle began

Today, I am to make a Beef Wellington dinner. I have made steak once. I have used hamburger many times. I have never baked anything beefy.

We'll see how this goes. The menu is as follows:

Appetizer-whipped blue cheese bruchetta topped with a stewed fig and a drizzle of port wine syrup

Main Plate-Beef Wellington with foie gras and duxelle, roasted carrots and parsnips, green herby salad.

Dessert-Julia Child's Reine de Saba (Chocolate and Almond Cake) with ganache.

Simple really. But hey, I have a baby! And it is my first beef! Mostly I'm concerned that the Wellington's pastry will be tough and burned and the inside meatiness will be bloody and cold, and my family will think I have purposely sabotaged this silly British remnant of American culture.

Then there is the cake. I've mentioned before that in my history I have had an issue baking with chocolate. Actually, at one point I couldn't even get instant JELLO pudding to set. OK, that was in seventh grade, and I had multiplied the recipe for a class potluck. But who messes up instant pudding? It was a soupy, inedible mess. I am hoping I've learned a little something since then.

7:20 am--The babe and I are awake, or, the baby is awake and I am puff-eyed and groggy because I couldn't stop thinking last night. I had terrible insomnia--should have just gotten up and made the duxelle.

9:00 am--We're off! Baby Cedar is asleep with dad. I have just got the cake in the oven and it looks absolutely marvelous! This just might really work.

10:00am--I overheated the chocolate and then overbaked the cake. Calling my sister in the middle of the baking was a bad idea. I am no multi-tasker and the five minutes too much of the cake is evidence. I've sent Kevin to the store for more chocolate and have sworn him and my brother to secrecy.

10:30am--Tried the cake. Actually, it is blissful. I swear it was over-baked, but you would never know. It has the most incredibly tender crumb. My beloved made me promise to remember perfectionism is really not cool, or time efficient, or good for food, relationships, or one's overall personal well being.Thanks babe. I'll try to remember that.

11:15am--...supposed to be at sister's in forty-five minutes for lunch. Not gonna make that deadline!

9:44pm--Home, done, eaten. Needless to say, it got a little busy in there.

Night, after all casualties were assessed, victories won:

Aside form needing to have cooked the damn thing longer to brown the pastry sufficiently, I had shape issues.

How'd it get to be curved? I have no idea. I was searing it in the pan and it just started morphing. And then the pastry! I was in a hurry and had the thing on a partially heated pan so the pastry was swooning all over the place. Hence why it looks like a saggy-skinned grub, or a plastered turd.

Lesson 1
Appies too will look really gross if not planned and prepared propperly. The blue cheese, fig and port syrup is divine. They are hideous though. Maybe the worst of all. In my defense, I was not the assembler. But I still feel responsible for this.

Lesson 2

Don't overheat the chocolate. It makes it gross and oily. I know this. I've done this. I did it again today. Don't overheat the chocolate. If you do, you may fix it again by adding heavy cream.

Compare! I did use the separated chocolate for the first cake. So it doesn't change the taste or texture necessarily.

Lesson 3

Foie Gras is so controversial in its animal ethics that it is not even sold in the state of California (except maybe on the black market)! I had convinced myself that somehow stuffing a tube-feeder down a goose's throat was OK because every day they come back for more, it can't possibly be bad. And, it tastes so good. I am currently doing penance.

Lesson 4

Buy Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It is perfect. I learned to whip egg whites for real today. And I made two gorgeous five minute different versions of the same cake. One with ganache, one without.

Lesson 5

Meat, just like chocolate, needs love. Give it love. Give it time. Make sure the mushroom duxelle is dry enough to not get the pastry all soggy. Very, very sad when puff pastry is not crisp. It makes a pastry girl tear up with sadness.

And keep that pastry cold! Duh. This is the most hideous beef wellington I could have ever imagined. I can't even share the recipe because I ended up flubbing so many parts of it that I could not begin to tell you what to do.

Lesson 6 to win them all

Stick with vegetarian? Stick with the sweets? We shall take a beef break for a while at least. It has been a long day. Happy Birthday Sister!

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