Thursday, April 21, 2011

Merci, French Press Memos!

It's been two months and we are still without a kitchen. [STATUS UPDATE SIDE NOTE: We've ordered cabinets and they'll be arriving in 2 weeks.] I've watched a deplorable amount of television and eaten unfathomable quantities of pho, chicken fried rice, my usual order at Chipotle (there's only one combination of ingredients that I always order there), and ice cream sandwiches, interspersed with the occasional liquid dinner over the past 8 weeks. For someone who rarely ever cooks the same thing twice in one month, I've demonstrated uncharacteristic tolerance for the mundane in my diet.

I've been making guest appearances in kitchens here and there. Most recently, French Press Memos invited me, mushrooms, and meats into her kitchen so that I could make pate aux champignons and pate de campagne for my French-themed supper club.

There's not a lot that's sexy about pate. It's a whole lot of ground up ingredients, pressed into some sort of a mould or a terrine if you're lucky. But if you put them on some sourdough toast with a bit of good mustard and a little cornichon, and you've got yourself a special treat.

The pate de campagne came from a recipe posted by Cheeseslave, modified only in that I added a bit more salt (oak-smoked, at that) and that I made it with a meat grinder rather than a food processor. The mushroom pate, however, was modified more greatly, and the recipe is here:

Mushroom Pate (adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
2 teaspoons minced garlic
20 oz mixed mushrooms (shiitake, portabello, etc.), wiped clean and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt oak-smoked salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon truffle oil
8 ounces softened goat cheese

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until wilted and starting to brown. Add the wine, thyme, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the wine is nearly all evaporated, 5 minutes. Add the parsley and truffle oil and cook for 30 seconds.

Let cool till it's cool enough to handle, because the next step is messy. Grind through a meat grinder. Stir in the goat cheese until well combined. Then grind through the finer plate of the meat grinder. Transfer to a decorative ramekin or bowl, cover, and refrigerate until set, 3 to 4 hours. Unmould by gently sliding a knife between the pate and the sides of the bowl and transfer to a plate.

Spreading some Sunshine on a cloudy day

As they say, for every cloud, there is a silver lining. The cloud of my out-of-commission-Speakeasy-Kitchen arrived with an opportunity to be in the New Belgium Brewing Company’s Tastemaker program.* 
I’d been stealing opportunities to cook in friends’ kitchens across the continent, but I found myself with some tasty New Belgium brews and running out of kitchens to impose upon. Not to worry though -- one of my favorite things to do with beer (other than drinking it) is to shove a can of it up a chicken’s butt and that can be done outdoors on a grill, no kitchen required.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t try it with anything other than the stray can of pilsner that occasionally shows up at our house. I use something with a mild flavor that doesn’t impart much more than its moisture to the chicken. But since New Belgium was buying*, I figured, “What the heck?”

Yes, that’s right. New Belgium beers come in a can. And they are mighty delicious, I might add.

According to New Belgium, its Sunshine wheat beer is “a great beer for trouncing thirst.” Not a bad way to impart moisture to chicken. But it gets better than that. The flavor profile includes coriander and orange peel tartness, “settling nicely into a tranquil sea of apple and honey tones.” Well then, what better way to part the clouds than with a little Sunshine? I consulted the Flavor Bible and decided to pair the beer up with some spices on my beer can chicken.
Sunshine Wheat Beer Can Chicken

Whole 3 lb chicken
1 can New Belgium Sunshine wheat beer 
2 tsp oak-smoked salt
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp granulated onion
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp chili powder

Preheat grill to 450 degrees F. Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Put all the spices into a small bowl and mix well.

Open up a can of Sunshine and pour out half. I recommend pouring it into your stomach.

Rub 1/4 of the spices into the interior cavity of the chicken. Rub the rest all over the skin. Shove the can up the chicken's butt. Prop the chicken wings up so it has an satisfied air about it while it sits on the can. Set it on the grill where it is not sitting directly over flames, drop the lid on the grill, and let it cook till a meat thermometer reads 170 degrees, about 30-40 minutes. Carefully remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest. The internal temperature will continue to rise while the outside cools. The outside cooling is a critical step -- it's hard to grip a can of beer to pull it out of a cooked chicken butt when it's full of steaming beer. Remove can, carve chicken, and let the sun shine in.
*As part of this Tastemaker program (through Foodbuzz), I received a stipend to make this meal possible.