Monday, April 20, 2009

XTra Fancy VIP Family Dinner

Big News! I'm going back to California in 1 month. I'll have to change the name of my blog! I figured before I left should have some dinner parties (for me and my four friends. Where'd you all go?) Last week, I picked up $91.70 in paychecks from Perle, racking up a grand total of $156 in my bank account. What a load of money! So I called the friends, went to the co-op and spent $75. I felt a little more like myself, lugged my new foodstuffs home and started whipping some shit up.

Recall that Sara and I had an adventure preparing Ram's Testicles last week. Our intention was to prepare a similar feast for our friends and let them in on the secret ingredient only after they had licked their plates clean. But this week at the co-op there were no balls!

But there were livers and tongue.

So, on the menu goes:

Lamb's Liver Pate

Pate is really easy to make at home. Everyone should do it! To make a really simple pate, get yourself:

1 lb of chicken livers (or pig livers, or lamb livers, or beef liver, but beef is kinda gross)
2 anchovy filets
1 tbsp of capers
1 shallot (chopped up, of course)
like, uhh...a cup of Marsala or Sherry or other sweetish fermented beverage
some butter or olive oil - whichever YOU like better

Then just sautée the shallot, anchovy, capers, in the butter (or olive oil) and when the anchovy is dissolved, crank up the heat tops and throw in your livers (which should be rinsed and dried). Cook the livers til they're just browned a little, just for a minute, and then pour in the alcohol and simmer until the alcohol's reduced by half. It should look pretty soupy. Let this cool down and shplop it in your Cuisinart or blender, blend til smooth, and there you go!

Spread it on a nice crusty baguette with some Dijon mustard and you've just knocked up your fancy level, like, 12 points.

The lamb's liver I got was super strong (see photo, smelled bad), so I ended up tempering it out with a few chicken livers, which make a smoother, sweeter, less funky pate. I sliced up some red onions, dried figs, and prunes and simmered them down with balsamic vinegar to throw on top.

After some debate, Sara and I decided that the tongue was a little too fancy for our guests, so we put it in the All-Purpose Pickling Jar that Sara had used weeks back to pickle herring to save it for ourselves later.
On the side we had roasted beets with goat cheese and Vosgienne salads with frisee, poached eggs, bacon, and warm vinaigrette. By the time I got around to poaching the eggs, I'd had a bottle of wine and couldn't swirl my water right. They were breaking all over the place, but no one seemed to care.

For our main course, I found these little Guinea Fowl at the Co-op for 6$ each! They even came with gizzards, fingers and toes. I brined these in some salt water, pepper and bay leaves for about an hour, then tied up their little feets, shoved butter patties under their skin, sprinkled them in salt, pepper, and orange peel (simmer your orange peel in some water for 2 minutes to get the scenty oils flowing) and roasted them in the oven for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, we made a knockout sauce with orange juice, stock, a little leftover ball sauce (for the fat and the flavor), some orange marmalade, apple cider vinegar, a little red wine, and the plentiful pan drippings. They were divine! Super tender and juicy, crispy skin, and the sauce was savory, sweet, and rich. After we each got our turn to suck the remnants off the carcasses, dunked our bread in the leftover sauce, poured
more wine, and wished for more.

Serious Business

Please Note:

From this day forward, I will be occasionally posting things that might take on an uncharacteristically serious-ish tone. It's not that I'm never a serious person. Historically, though, this blog has been a decidedly anti-serious place. But if the world is going to take me as seriously as I take myself, which is really, really seriously, I'm gonna have to start acting like a grown-up. And grown-ups are always serious.

Today I'm going to dinner with some people my mom and I met at a Peerless Platters function. They graduated high school in 1995 - which makes them like 32 years old - and work at places like Morgan Stanely. I think they invited me because I seem "interesting". Maybe I can be their new, youthful, "crazy" friend. Anyway, I'm getting ready to act like a grownup. Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hardship Hits, I'm Put to the Testes

Hello Devoted Blog Followers (fake it til you make it, no?),

As you mostly certainly recall, I have more experience than most 23 year old women you and I know with eating testicles by choice. Recall also that some time back, I had the good fortune of discovering that I didn't have to go lurking round Upstate during castration season to get my hands on the goods - the Park Slope Food Co-op was practically giving them away every Thursday when they received their Miscellaneous Lamb Parts delivery.

What you don't recall, because you're hearing it for the first time now, was that March/April '09 has punched me in the face big time. Like, I woke up and was being teabagged by the big, badluck balls of March and April every fucking morning. Dumped by my boyfriend and the workforce. Permanent layoffs in relationship world and environmental education world. Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment went under and took all 40+ employees with it so suddenly, I was not only TOTALLY boyfriendless but also broke, broke broke, broke, broke.

So - no money for groceries. Negative monies in the bank. Last week I'm walking around the neighborhood with Sara Curtin and I'm crying about having to eat raw flour and spoonfuls of balsamic vinegar for dinner when she reminds me: We have balls in the freezer. Now this is big. Yeah, I'd eaten the balls in Lyon, where it was only customary and polite to do so. And I'd purchased them. But, hey, I'll admit it, it was mostly for novelty's sake - they were $3! I'm just gonna go ahead and say it - actually defrosting them and touching them and cooking them and eating them wasn't something I hadn't been dying to make time to do.

But, desperate times call for rifling through your freezer for anything that can satiate your hunger and make for some low-budget Friday night entertainment.

When we got home, we figured out what sort of ingredients we had to work with and made a menu:

Tater Tots
Frozen Peas & Corn
Braised Thighs of Chicken aux Marsala & Ball Sauce

We defrosted the balls. We gave each other pep talks and hearty, "YOU'RE the MAN" type slaps on the back. We poked them with a wooden spoon before we poked them with our index finger.

Raising our dullish knives, we went in for the slice. The knives bounced off. The two veiny testes, twice the size of any balls that either of us had ever in our lives been involved with, wiggled and leered at us from the cutting board, their outer skin an impenetrable, pink fortress of flesh, little rivers of blood running from each of their nippleish tips.

Since it's not my general practice to do much preliminary research prior to treading new kitchen waters, I didn't know that most of the Rocky Mountain Oyster eating community in Colorado suggest you peel off the tough outer skin while the balls are still frozen to make your task less stressful. Ten minutes and a lot of girlish squealing later, we finally finished sawing off the XXTRa sinewy outside flesh encasing each ball and reached, with glee, their pillowy, peachy insides. Two glistening treasures.

The rest was easy. Sara was insistent that she got to taste at least a little of the ball in its purist form, so we sliced the part of 1 ball into 1/2 inch discs, gave them a toss of s&p and seared them like scallops (which they resembled exactly, save the color) with butter and a little garlic. Delicious.

Maybe it's the pussy way out, but we'd decided to incorporate the rest into a "Ballsala" sauce, cutting them into smaller pieces to disguise their form, browning them and cooking them for a long time in a stew of caramelized onions, stock and Marsala which we poured over crispy, roasted chicken thighs (our favorite!).

Though I'd been the ringleader of the project to start, Sara turned out to be the clear choice for "Most Enthusiastic Ball Eater". She loved them. Couldn't get enough! She was stealing the balls out of MY sauce, even! And it's true that once you get over yourself there's little not to like about them: they're super tender, low in fat, a little gamey, pair well with many flavors, and are dirt cheap.

Could Ram's Testicles be the Recession Era Filet Mignon?