Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Here in Topeka

I don't know what happened here because I've had this post mostly written for almost a week. The other day I had to explain to Isabel what procrastination meant. She knew the technical definition, but she just couldn't understand why people would ever do it and as I described the mixture of perfectionism, dreaminess, anxiety, and laziness that I struggle against every day, she looked at me blankly.

Wednesday night I cooked my last Stir dinner: prune-stuffed-gnocchi with foie gras sauce, which is Barbara Lynch's "most requested" recipe.

Roughly two weeks ago, I ordered foie gras online from D'Artagnan. With shipping, four lobes (disgusting word) cost $68 which puts a lot of pressure on the cook. I was excited and nervous all day thinking about this expensive grand finale and bought a bottle of red wine to mark the occasion.

At 5 o'clock, I poured a glass of the wine and got to work. First, I simmered prunes in Madeira until they were soft and then pureed them. I boiled the potatoes, riced them, mixed them with eggs and flour, formed a gnocchi dough, rolled it out, and cut it into biscuit shapes. In the middle of each biscuit I put a teaspoon of pureed prune, folded the whole ensemble into a potsticker-shaped crescent, stood it up on its fat side, and made a sauce-catching dent in the top. Watching this artistry distracted Owen from his homework and he came over to help. Usually, it's the eraser on his pencil that distracts Owen from his homework. I poured another glass of wine.

The sauce is made by creaming together foie gras and butter then chilling it until firm. I warmed some shallots, spices, and Madeira in a saucepan and started throwing in chunks of the cold foie gras butter. Weird: You chill the butter and then right after it's really cold you melt it? This is the chemistry part of cooking that I have to take on faith. I strained the sauce, which was like melted foie gras-flavored butter. In fact, it was melted foie gras-flavored butter.

I sliced the remainder of the foie into thick chunks and heated the pan to sear it. I brought the water for poaching the gnocchi to a rolling boil. It was seven o'clock, the hour when my handsome husband usually walks through the door to find table set, dinner ready, me in high heels and fresh red lipstick holding a chilled cocktail shaker. The first half of that joke sentence isn't a joke. Promptly at seven the phone rang and Husband said he was so sorry, he was going to be an hour late, was just leaving the office, weren't we having something special tonight, like foie gras? He was so so so so sorry.

I said, You think you're sorry now, buster.

I wish I'd said that. I don't remember what I said.

I poured another glass of wine, tossed the salad, cooked the gnocchi, and seared the foie which, in under one minute, threw off several cups of fat and shrank to little planks of soft brown liver. The kids and I sat down to eat. Isabel was immediately and completely repulsed by the foie gras and nudged it to the side of her plate. She said,"I would have liked it better if you'd just made regular gnocchi."

"The gnocchi tastes really weird with the prunes in it," Owen said. "The meat (he meant the foie gras) is pretty good, I'd give it 3-and-a-half out of 5. But the salad is 5 out of 5!"

Foie gras was my mother's favorite food. She discovered it late in life, and thought it was very decadent and wicked, and she loved being decadent and wicked in completely innocent ways. I got weepy at dinner, due to missing my mother and drinking too much red wine and wasting an expensive delicacy on children. I liked the gnocchi a lot. If you close your eyes and imagine Gerber prunes, Madeira, duck liver, and soft, doughy potato dumplings you will have a sense of what the dish was like. Delicious!

But I won't make it again. Next time I'm going to order it.

And so we come to the end of the long season of Stir! I have tallied the recipes and will provide a full write-up . . . soon.


  1. Does Loretta Lynn eat foie gras?

  2. Probably not, and my husband wasn't calling from a bar. At least he said he wasn't.
    But flies were definitely buzzing.

  3. I love this post. And that is the worst that he was late for that meal, sad for him, sad for you. but here's a little comfort, at least one's not on the way!

  4. Anonymous 9:49 -- You said it, sister.

  5. I like foie gras, but I get the sense that if I cooked it at home, I might lose my appetite for it. I've had the dish at No. 9 Park and can't say I thought it was good enough to attempt at home anyway.

    Who is the adorable grey cat?

  6. I usually add prune puree to hamburgers and meatballs, 1T per lb. of lean ground beef, or particularly, bison. Great substitute for fat.

    My picky daughter became fond of a burger mix with 3x that much prune, thinking it tasted like White Castle (but far healthier, I imagine).

  7. Thanks for coming up with such a great explanation for procrastination so that I didn't have to (insert dumb procrastination joke here).

    What I wouldn't give to spend a day seeing the world through someone's eyes who feels like Isabel. Can you even imagine what that would be like?

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