The drought is over.

America!  I’m here.  I’m here, I’m here.  Don’t cry.  School is out for the summer, and I’ve finally got the time to lavish upon you the attention you so richly deserve.

You’d forgotten about me?  Don’t forget about me, America.

A lot has changed since I’ve been away.  I’ve become a vague sort of vegetarian.  I’ve cut out red meat entirely, and I may phase poultry back in eventually, and I certainly eat sea creatures.

So there’s that, America.  There’s that, and then there’s all the new tricks I’ve learned.  Tricks I shall impart to you, O my capricious nation.  Tricks that involve lots and lots of chocolate.

Like this:

But these are tricks I will teach you later.  For now, the bluish-black realm of sleep awaits me.  Good night.

-D

Possibilities with Demi-Glace.

Demi-glace is sauce.  I mean, that’s basically it.  Think of demi-glace, or its knock-kneed cousin, the bouillon cube, as a concrete foundation (or in the bouillon cube’s case, a parquet floor) for saucecrafting, to borrow a Kingdom-Of-Loathing concept.  But yeah.

If you’ve got demi-glace like I had demi-glace, you can do crazy things from Classical French Cuisine.  There’s tons of ’em.  Let’s just crack the ol’ Jacques Pépin to see a sampling:

* Marchand de vin sauce

* Madeira-truffle sauce

* Chasseur sauce

Stuff like that.

Well, Dad and I made a Chasseur sauce (a hunter’s sauce) over break with one of the demi-glace ice-cubes.  Here comes one now!

Put a little brown ice cube in your favorite one-cup heat-resistant kitchenware, and add nice hot water to it, to get a delicious brown liquid.  Also, drink San Pellegrino (It’s In The Background! TM).

Let me see if I remember right, with Jacques helping out, although we didn’t use his recipe:

I know I started with a roux – which, if you didn’t know, is another one of those Classical French things: equal parts fat and flour.  It also features heavily in Cajun cooking, and it retains a lot of heat very well.  It’s a thickener, and it’s sort of dangerous; they call it Cajun Napalm sometimes.

Anyway, start with a roux.  Then a few shallots, a clove or two of garlic – wilt these for a while, add some diced tomato, some mushrooms, a little chives, maybe.  and some white wine, and a (small!) knob of butter for sheen.  Add the wine slowly, and cook it down – forgive my poor recollection of the recipe; my memory of this is not so fresh.

Anyway, Chasseur Sauce is great for pretty much any kind of poultry; it goes really well with the duck leg I put it on, and I’m willing to hazard a guess that it goes well with turkey and dark-meat chicken.  I had it on rabbit once, at Le Bouchon in Chicago.  It was fantastic.

Anyway, duck.  Duck is amazing.  America, eat more duck.  And less beef.  Actually, yeah.  Eat less meat, but when you do eat meat, try some duck.  No, I’m serious.  Score it, broil it, let all that fantastic fat render out (Save it for something!  Don’t throw it out!  Don’t be a fool, America!).

There we go.  From now on, the object of my addresses will be the country in which I live, writ large.  Hello, America the country, or women named America.  Or men named Amerigo.

Anyway, duck is fabulous, and it just wants a little love and a roasting pan.

What could possibly be wrong about some crispy duck on a bed of angel hair pasta with the chasseur sauce on top?

Maybe I could have used a little French bread to sop up the sauce.  Maybe.

Draw your own conclusions.

-D

The many uses of curry powder,

and how to make your own.

Now you’re probably saying to yourself, if you consider yourself to be in the know, “But David! Curry powder is the product of an old imperial system! There isn’t such a thing as real curry powder!”

Well. You’d be right, fine: as I understand it, British soldiers in Victorian-era India essentially catalyzed the invention of curry powder – many Indians had (and certainly many, many people still do) ground one-time-use powder for each meal or each dish prepared. So a fairly standardized recipe was decided upon, industrialized, and shipped back to the United Kingdom.

And I’ve seen curry powder in every grocery store I’ve ever been to, no matter where; curry powder is by no means groundbreaking and novel – I’m not claiming any great revelations here.

Except. There’s a reason millions of people still grind their own curry mixes, and it’s David’s Kitchen Corollary Number One: Control is directly proportional to Enjoyment, flavor-wise. The more power you exert over your food, the better it’s going to taste; home-grown tomatoes and self-caught fish invariably taste (or give the illusion of tasting) better than their store-bought equivalents.

If they aren’t delicious tomatoes, the fault hopefully (for my sake) lies in the gardener and I’m still right.

But you see my purpose, here, and it is to at least give it a try. Home-made curry powder tastes better because it’s fresher, it tastes better because you made it (and thus control the proportions, and it tastes better because whole spices are cheaper in bulk.

So, you’ll need, in descending order of prominence (and of course this is mutable):

* Coriander seeds (about 3 tablespoons)
* Cumin seeds (about 2 tablespoons)
* Black peppercorns (2 teaspoons)
* Cardamom pods (ten to fifteen)
* Fennel (1 to 2 teaspoons)
* Turmeric powder (1/2 teaspoon)

I know I just said Control is Delicious, but little is hard and fast when it comes to spices. Except the cardamom pods. Take your time with those or you’ll have fibrous, woody bits in your karahi lamb. Cardamom pods are hell in a jar. Pry them open, remove the little flavorful seeds within, and thank heaven that you don’t need more.

Take all of your seeds, your podless cardamom, your fennel – everything except the turmeric – and throw it in a frying pan over low heat. Those spices will start to release their fabulous aromatics, and their essential oils will gently seep out. Once you can smell that, remove everything to a mortar and pestle, and get to grinding. Add the turmeric. And don’t pronounce it without the first ‘r’; that bugs me.

Keep at your grinding vigorously, Baba Yaga, and eventually you’ll have a relatively fine powder, suitable for usage in about anything.

Seriously, though. Anything.

Isn’t it nice?

-D

Introductions.

So this is what the blogosphere looks like from the inside.

Hello, everyone. I’m David Rheinstrom, and I now present to you The Clean Platter.

This blog will play host to a number of food-related topics – essays, restaurant reviews, culinary experiments gone horribly awry – and non-food-related topics too numerous, more than likely, to mention.

But enough preamble, and onto dedications; I hereby dedicate this blog in the spirit of, and in memory of, Ogden Nash, and his ageless whimsy.

Thus, Ogden Nash’s “The Clean Platter”:

Some singers sing of ladies’ eyes,
And some of ladies lips,
Refined ones praise their ladylike ways,
And course ones hymn their hips.
The Oxford Book of English Verse
Is lush with lyrics tender;
A poet, I guess, is more or less
Preoccupied with gender.
Yet I, though custom call me crude,
Prefer to sing in praise of food.

Food,
Yes, food,
Just any old kind of food.


Pheasant is pleasant, of course,
And terrapin, too, is tasty,
Lobster I freely endorse,
In pate or patty or pasty.

But there’s nothing the matter with butter,
And nothing the matter with jam,
And the warmest greetings I utter
To the ham and the yam and the clam.

For they’re food,
All food,
And I think very fondly of food.

Through I’m broody at times
When bothered by rhymes,
I brood
On food.

Some painters paint the sapphire sea,
And some the gathering storm.
Others portray young lambs at play,
But most, the female form.
“Twas trite in that primeval dawn
When painting got its start,
That a lady with her garments on
Is Life, but is she Art?


By undraped nymphs
I am not wooed;
I’d rather painters painted food.


Food,
Just food,
Just any old kind of food.
Go purloin a sirloin, my pet,
If you’d win a devotion incredible;
And asparagus tips vinaigrette,
Or anything else that is edible.


Bring salad or sausage or scrapple,
A berry or even a beet.
Bring an oyster, an egg, or an apple,
As long as it’s something to eat.


If it’s food,
It’s food;
Never mind what kind of food.
When I ponder my mind
I consistently find
It is glued
On food.