Quayle vs Murphy Revisited

2007.May.20 Sunday · 2 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

“Ultimately however, marriage is a moral issue that requires cultural consensus, and the use of social sanctions. Bearing babies irresponsibly is, simply, wrong. Failing to support children one has fathered is wrong. We must be unequivocal about this. It doesn’t help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown – a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman – mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another “lifestyle choice.”

– Dan Quayle, 44th Vice President of the United States

Buenos Aires – It truly doesn’t seem like it was fifteen years ago this last weekend. I can’t quite decide if it seems longer ago or more recent. Fifteen just doesn’t sound right. But there he was, our VP, delivering up another speech on family values, and singling out a fictional unwed mother as representative of the decline of moral values in the U.S. He was already the butt of many jokes, especially amongst the late night talk show hosts, and this just added fuel to the fire. It’s worth, by the way, reading his whole speech, not just simply to see the quote in context, but to see that to a certain extent, he wasn’t far off base. We may have different views on the solution, and as to what constitute basic family values, but his analysis that many of the social ills of the day can be directly traced to the breakdown in strong families is something I wouldn’t dispute. Nonetheless, I’m not here to get into a political commentary – I’m here to cook dinner – and somehow, it’s just got to relate back to this event…

You don’t doubt my abilities in nutty menu design now, do you? Puns and wordplay are easy (until you realize you have to explain them to the non-English speaking folk, and non-U.S. citzens, who happen to come to dinner)… and I have no real restrictions on what I can cook… well, a few as it turns out. We seem to have become a magnet for those with dietary restrictions. I’m not complaining mind you – it’s actually kind of an interesting challenge. But there seems to have been an upswelling in the numbers – I used to just ask people if they were seriously allergic to any ingredients – interestingly, we rarely got many affirmative responses – a few shellfish, nuts, and the occasional other ingredient. But I’d noticed that sometimes people slipped in stuff that it was obvious they simply didn’t like – tripe, dark meat of chicken, tomato sauces with sugar added – things that were in no way allergies. I started rephrasing the question, to give people the room to make their declarations, and hopefully make it easier for me to make some choices. Sometimes I have to say “no”, but most of the time I try to accommodate folks’ requests. This weekend had its challenges. Out of twenty four people coming, here’s the list I ended up with: 4 no red meat, 3 no fish, 4 no garlic, 1 no American ham, 1 no beets, 1 no bananas, 2 no heavy cream sauces, and 1 lactose intolerant. To come up with one menu, like I said last week, we would have had to go with a strict vegetarian, and not use dairy or garlic… not going to happen. I did a little back and forth negotiating, and, well, you judge the results…

Poricini Leek Soup with Quayle EggsFirst up, a soup. And of course, it’s a Porcini Mushroom and Leek Soup with Quayle Eggs. You had to know it was coming… Turns out there are a fair number of quail egg soups out there. This one’s a nice, hearty soup, based on one that Emeril prepares. Yes, Emeril. Okay, but no garlic, no heavy cream… You have to really pull some flavor out of the ingredients to give this some richness – I chopped up two large leeks, one onion, the leaves stripped off a couple of sprigs of thyme, and took the stems off of a half pound of porcini mushrooms, and sauteed them all together until they were lightly browned. Then into the blender with just enough water to cover, and pureed until smooth. Meanwhile, slice the mushroom caps into bite sized pieces, and saute them until browned. Pour the puree over the mushrooms, add water to bring it to a nice soup-like consistency, simmer for about 20 minutes, season with salt and black pepper. Serve, garnished with hard-boiled quail egg halves…

Potatoe Gnocchi with Horseradish Sage CreamAt least half the people coming asked me if I was going to make something with “potatoe” in it, making fun of yet another Dan Quayle fumble, this one in the spelling world. So, yes, of course – this was a given in menu planning – and I decided on Potatoe Gnocchi with Horseradish Sage Cream. The gnocchi are homemade, which is actually kind of fun to do. I like to use baked potato rather than boiled, mostly because the boiled ones have to be left to sit around forever to dry out some. Three large baking potatoes, baked until nice and soft all the way through, then cooled, peeled, and mashed up. Add two cups of flour, 1 beaten egg, and some salt and white pepper. Mix it thoroughly but don’t overdo it, you don’t want the potatoes getting gluey. Roll into little balls, press with the tines of a fork (it’s easiest if you keep dusting your hands with a little flour – gnocchi tend to stick to you, ya know? Same with the fork – just keep dipping it in flour) – and get ready to cook them. A large pot of salted, boiling water, and cook them up in batches – this quantity got split in thirds to do. The gnocchi are ready when the float to the surface. The sauce – sour cream with fresh grated horseradish and chopped fresh sage, salt, and white pepper. Sauce on the side for your lactose intolerant folk, please… let them deside how much of it to use. This made enough for about 15 tasting portions – figure anywhere from 4-6 regular portions.

Pollack with Brown Butter Chive SauceWhite Eggplant with Brown Butter Chive Sauce

It was time to turn to Murphy Brown and give her a moment… the easiest thing that came to mind was a brown butter sauce – and so, a nice Pollack with Brown Butter Chive Sauce came into being. Once again pretty simple flavors – but those are often the best. Brown some butter and let it cool. On large squares of foil, dab some butter in the center, place a fillet of fish atop, sprinkle with chives, salt, and a grind of black pepper, then drizzle a tablespoon or two of the browned butter over it. Fold up the foil to seal it as a steaming packet. Throw them in the oven and cook until done – about 10-15 minutes. For the vegetarians amongst you, use slices of white eggplant, salt them, let them drain some of the liquid out, and to remove the bitterness, then rinse them and then treat them the same way as the fish fillets. Open the packets and serve them, along with all the juices in the packet. The brown butter leaves a light coating on top of the fillets that contrasts with the sweetness of the fish nicely.

Quayle MurphyRovellon Murphy

This was too good to pass up. There’s a classic dish in the States called Chicken Murphy… you can see it coming… Quayle Murphy… I couldn’t resist. Besides, I like the dish a lot. Classically, it’s a layering of potatoes, garlic, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, tomato, onions, optional hot peppers, sausages, and chicken, all done up casserole style, and baked until it’s all done. I separated out the components a little bit, and filled ramekins with layers in reverse order (planning to flip them over on the plate, you know?) – some crumbled, lightly precooked sausage, a spoonful or two of tomato puree, then a layer of lightly sauteed green and red bell peppers, no garlic, remember, we have four folk allergic to it, a slice of fresh tomato, some lightly sauteed onions, and then a layer of thinly slice potatoes. Is it doable to not pre-cook some of the ingredients? Yes – and if I was doing this just for us at home I probably wouldn’t have – but with the timing needed to serve a large group, it’s easier to have everything other than the thin layer of potatoes pre-cooked – they’ll cook fast because they’re on top, and you drizzle them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. When nice and bubbly and the potatoes have browned, flip them out onto a plate. Meanwhile, the quail halves that you’ve left marinating for a few hours in ouzo (or other anise flavored liqueur), salt, herb oil (oregano and chive this time), and a nice sprinkling of some sort of hot pepper – I used Japanese shichimi powder – need to be sauteed quickly in a pan until browned on both sides – then just cover the pan and let them sit until cooked through – you’re aiming for about medium. Perch them aside the little casserole, and eat. For our non-meat eaters, I used some of those great rovellón mushrooms that are in season, that I mentioned last weekend. Marinate them the same way, cook them the same way, oh, and substitute something for the crumbled sausage – in this case I sauteed up some diced zucchini with a little bit of fennel seed and pepper.

Brown Sugar PieThere must be a zillion recipes out there for Brown Sugar Pie. Every southern cook in the U.S. has their own version – they use milk, cream, evaporated milk, or not; they use eggs, or not; they use different types of brown sugar, sometimes mixed with white sugar; they may or may not have spices added… some of them win prizes, some don’t. Here’s my version: In the blender, put 1 cup of dark brown sugar, 1 cup of light brown sugar, 1 cup of milk, ½ cup of melted butter, 5 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 5 tablespoons of flour, and ¼ teaspoon of cardamom. Blend it all up until it’s smooth. Meanwhile, take the 5 egg whites left over from those yolks, and whip them until fairly stiff – not completely or they’re a pain to mix into the batter. Fold the whites and the mixture together, and pour into a cookie crust pie shell (finely crushed cookies, sugar, and melted butter). This will make two 8-9″ pies. Bake in the oven at 350°F until browned on top, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. By the way, that separation into two layers – with a sort of fudgy textured center and a light, froth top, happens automatically, I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation for it, I don’t know what it is, but it happens all on its own. Cool, serve at room temperature with whipped cream.


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