Caviar Holiday Bookends (+If Eggs Were Clouds)

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For many, this holiday season has been blighted oddly by election malaise. Prior to Thanksgiving, the temperament of the masses had vacillated between surreally high or devastatingly low due to the tempestuous climate surrounding the race for president seen in particularly vicious battles between campaigners, the public, the parties and then eventually even our own families and friends. It has been a weird time to be an American and for some, to even consider what that still means within a contemporary context. So the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving came with a strange tone this year.

The Cute Gardener and I decided to bookend Thanksgiving with tiny food rituals that mean something to us so that we might celebrate, in the least, the things we are grateful for within our own relationship. Because despite what is happening in the rest of the world beyond the walls of our own home, we have it really good and don’t want to take that for granted. One of the things our love revolves greatly around is the intimate sharing and eating of food.

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For a year, a small bottle of luxurious caviar powder and a tiny jar of bottarga from our favorite Beverly Hills purveyor Petrossian, have resided in a kitchen cabinet, only to be brought out randomly yet judiciously for use as an expensive garnish on dishes we deem worthy. We decided to take those two beautiful ingredients to the living room coffee table this year to create our own finger foods that don’t quite fit into any of the three regular daily meals.

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Before Thanksgiving we knew we didn’t need a full dinner, as we’d be getting plenty of carbs the next day. So we filled a bowl with Terra Chips made of roasted root vegetables and had fun deciding whether the caviar or the bottarga went better with various chips atop a dollop of sour cream and sometimes a meaty flake of smoked salmon. Our verdict after many crunchy bites washed down with dry champagne? Yukon white potato chip with sour cream and bottarga!

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After Thanksgiving while enjoying a morning of college football on the couch, I re-imagined a dish we’ve tasted at Petrossian before that is called Egg Royale, or what I like to call “If Eggs Were Clouds.” I found a recipe online and was stunned by its simplicity.

My version as follows:

If Eggs Were Clouds
Serves 2
(a few perfect bites)

2 eggs
½ c. whipping cream
½ tbls. vodka
1 tbls. butter
salt and pepper
caviar powder

Freeze a small aluminum bowl and then in it, whip ¼ c. cream and the vodka till fluffy. Place in fridge.

Whisk together eggs and remaining ¼ c. cream and half a pinch of both salt and pepper until thoroughly blended. The longer whipped the better.

Take a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat on low. Place ½ tbls. butter in it and melt. Pour egg and cream mixture into it and then whisk constantly while still heating on low until soft, fluffy curds develop. When they start to develop, remove from heat and they will continue cooking. Put the remaining ½ tbls. butter into eggs and whip till melted.

Divide egg mixture between two cups, top with whipped cream and sprinkle with caviar powder.

 

 

Foie Floodgates

IMG_9437Last Wednesday the California culinary scene celebrated when a federal judge overturned the statewide ban on foie gras that has been in effect since 2012. The decision to lift the ban wasn’t a judgment about whether the practice of force feeding fowl to fatten their livers before killing them for food is animal cruelty or not. It has to do with state versus federal jurisdiction over food products.

When the ban was lifted the Cute Gardener and I had a conversation on the couch, pause button pressed on whatever we had been doing at the moment as we are prone to do during intense discussions post-dinner in our home, about the level of outrage foie gras has provoked in our society. News of activists outside of French restaurants and deli counters and meat distribution businesses still refusing to sell foie on principle abounded over the past week. Our questions weren’t geared toward the hardcore vegans or vegetarians or the people who already think meat is murder, but to the people who generally eat meat. Why are they so inflamed about the treatment of ducks and geese in the making of foie gras, when they regularly sit down to meals of chicken, turkey or beef? Turkeys have been so overly stuffed that they are too heavy to fly. Chickens are packed into cubicles and given growth hormones. Kobe beef is grazed until veins of marbled fat become so entrenched in their flesh that it is almost impossible to discern pink from red in the meat.

It seems like the true question at hand for those people should be whether or not they eat meat at all? If you eat meat, it seems rather morbid to try and discern what types of killing are better than others? If you eat meat because of its historical precedence in the societal food chain, then it doesn’t seem like you have much room to spout off on either side of the humane treatment of animals debate. Which is why I stay out of it. My diet is not overloaded in meat but I do factor pork, beef, chicken, lamb and turkey protein into my balanced palate on a permanent basis. I try to source sustainable meat whenever possible because I don’t want an assortment of foreign chemicals in my body and won’t go out of my way to expend major amounts of energy procuring meat otherwise.

For the past three years, the Cute Gardener has been enjoying his foie on business trips to New York City. Alas, I have not been so fortunate as the life of an artist and writer does not afford me the luxury to accompany him on those trips. Last night, we stopped into Petrossian after a Moroccan dinner at Tagine looking for a special dessert of vodka and caviar. Instead we found a new special menu of six types of foie gras (and later learned there was a special seared “off menu” item as well). We were one of three couples left in the small, pristine white dining room after nine and as we sliced off bits of foie studded with truffles and enjoyed the pursuant cold, creaminess in our mouths, I couldn’t help but wonder how many restaurants across Los Angeles were currently serving more dishes of foie today than they had ever imagined before the ban. And if that kind of backfiring momentum isn’t the true misfortunate side effect of good intentions that aim to tip our natural balances from one side to another.

P.S. After posting this, one reader sent me this wonderful NPR piece with a look at an alternate foie approach which presents good food for thought.