Here's the Alice Waters blurb on the cover of David Tanis' Platter of Figs: "Incomparable menus, each a little masterpiece."
Hieronymous Bosch painted some masterpieces.
I've said more than enough about the pig's ear salad. What saddened me was just how badly the rest of Tanis' "peasant fare from a Parisian kitchen" menu turned out.
The complete bill of fare:
-pig's ear salad with herb vinaigrette
-duck hams with French lentils and celery root remoulade
-chilled prunes in Beaujolais
The duck hams sounded delicious. Per Tanis' instructions I brined, braised them, then baked them with lentils and vegetables. Ordinarily the meat on duck legs is loose, rich, and tender, but in this case the flesh clung tightly to the bone and the flavor was off.
I don't entirely blame Tanis. He says you should brine the duck legs for several days or "up to a week." And while I suspected that "up to a week" was a bit of casual imprecision on his part, I went with it because after I put the duck in brine, it took exactly a week to get those freakin' pig's ears. The duck wasn't a disaster, but definitely a disappointment.
And dessert. Cold little prunes in a thin, inky sauce, like something you'd get at Hogwarts or a nursing home. I speak as one who is fond of the prune, but there's nothing nice to say about this dish except that it's not pig's ear salad.
Am I the only one who thinks that even on paper this is a hostile menu? Forget the pig's ears for a minute. Can you really imagine inviting someone for dinner and serving chilled prunes?
One theory: This is Tanis' "epater la bourgeoisie" moment after all those years cooking natural lamb and organic baby vegetables for people who think eating at Chez Panisse is a political statement.
I've made five out of the six winter menus from Platter of Figs. I was going to skip the last one, but now feel compelled to follow through. It does involve octopus and a packet of squid ink, but also yummy expensive scallops and Spanish cheese.
Today I'll try to track down an octopus.