Liz had her annual holiday party on Saturday, and there was a good turnout despite the recent heavy snow and slick roads. I spent most of the day making components of what I hoped would be a great appetizer: duck prosciutto on lotus root chips with butternut gel, green tea pudding, and peanut butter powder. It turned out all right, but needs tinkering to balance the flavors. All of the individual components were really good, though, and the other thing I made- parmigiano tuiles with peach-habañero chutney- were very tasty indeed. And a nice side-effect to having these various bits of molecular geekery around is that some of them make for excellent kid treats. Here's Milo's afternoon snack, post ecstatic snow-romping: bananas with peanut butter powder and cubes of butternut gel.
At the party, John gave me two more hunks of dried bonito- I have tried and failed to find it in the US, and he was back in Japan last week- touring with Jack Bruce and Vernon Reid(?!)- so, being John, he did some research and found me the best, old-school artisanal bonito from Kyushu where it's still dried out in the sun. He got me two different cuts; each fish produces four pieces and he brought a belly and a loin just to be safe. He also brought some wonderful vinous treats for the party: a 1993 Orion, a 1989 Sociando-Mallet, a 1997 Jaboulet Côte-Rôtie "Jumelles" and the wine of the night- a magnum of 1998 Gangloff Côte-Rôtie that tasted like a smoky cabin where people have been having sex with delicious farm animals.
Now most of you know that a "shank" is what Martha Stewart advises sticking into a recalcitrant cell-mate who won't agree to do a cover shoot for Prison Bride magazine. You may not know that "shank" also refers to the lower leg bones of delicious farm animals, including lambs. I just so happened to have two of these latter kinds in the freezer, and the weather yesterday was just right for braised, lamby goodness. I simmered them low for a couple of hours with mirepoix, wine, herbs, tomato paste, olive paste, cumin, and preserved lemon, added some frozen peas, and served them on polenta with the parmigiano tuiles (there were some left over.) I had been rummaging around in some wine boxes, looking for something, and discovered 6 Pleiades XVs which I had completely forgotten. It's like my own personal Hanukkah miracle. Now after the XVIs, these are a little fat and jammy, but they're still delicious and perfect with a strongly-flavored stew like this.
Today, with ample leftovers, and a good amount of meat still on the bones (they could have stood another hour of braising) I made a remix that was closer in flavor and structure to the first take than I usually like to stay. But I knew it would be good, and Christine is sick so she didn't care. I made a good pot of broth with the lamb bones plus fennel and broccoli stalks, onion, carrot, turnip, peppercorns, and oregano and let it simmer super-low for about three hours. I strained it, put some in the freezer, and added the rest to the lamb braising liquid from yesterday. I also soaked and then simmered (also for about three hours) a handful of scarlet runner beans and then added them in. Served on leftover polenta with a single lamb rib chop seared with herbes de Provençe (I had these in the freezer too, a gift from the butcher who just had the two left) and wilted spinach, it made for a much tastier version with the added bonus of a tender chop for texture and flavor contrast. I finished the Pleiades.