Flaming food processor causes perfectly good reason to make pate brisee with only good intentions and your two hands... that and way too much butter to be all that good for you. Next up, Pate Brisee... sans la machine.
I remember this Moroccan restaurant in Paris. It was on this tiny little side street behind the Cathedral... well actually it wasn’t but one feels compelled to say such things when one speaks of food and Paris which has up to quite recently been the one city I could could pretty much guarantee that you have a 70/30 chance of getting food poisoning... yep... I know Mon Dieu! Sacrilege! Blasphemer! Heretic! Well I will say 2 things 1. I am in position to know mon ami and 2. It has improved immensely in the last few years thanks to some hip and tattooed young cookers and their complete abandonment of Soup d’ Poisson in favor of Tacos al Pastor and Burgers. They even have food carts(!) which is more than I can say for Barcelona my city of residence which seemingly has armies of functionarios who do nothing but quash the ideas of enterprising, enthusiastic young people thus making BCN safe for graft sucking good old boys who have seemingly found a way of scraping the pennies off of the dead eyes of an economy that is in it’s last throws of life.
Excuse me I digress... back to the restaurant... I can’t actually remember where it was... this was well before 4 Square, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Facebook Check ins and Grindr... oops me thinks I speaketh too much. But it was in Paris... I do remember that. I also remember that it was tiny and run by this grumpy mustachioed grand dame who just was not all that interested in much beyond her crossword puzzle. But hey this was Paris before Jacques Chirac gave Sylvester Stallone the “Medal d' Chevalier Des Arts et Lettres” told everybody to lighten up on the tourists and pick up the dog poop or he would make everybody work until 3:30 if not 4 PM and revoke all their free movie and Grand Roue passes (the big ferris wheel on Place du Concord). Merde!
Messieurs-dames the chow was amazing. Of course we had a Tagine and a Couscous and there were two new taste sensations I was to be introduced to that evening. One was Harissa which is the pretty dang ‘ot chili paste that madame mixed into a little bit of broth and dumped it on the couscous if memory serves. She did ask me how hot I wanted it and being American and having bigger balls than brains I simply growled, “l'apporter.” (No I am not going to be one of those pretentious snoots who drops French words and and sentences into conversations and texts without translating them forcing the listener/reader to do one of two things; look it up or ignore the speaker/writer and correctly assume they are a pretentious snoot. “L'apporter” means “bring it”... I think.) Which she did with the faintest of smiles. Putain! Yep, pretty dang ‘ot.
The second flavor surprise was preserved lemons. It was served with the chicken... sorry tofu... and had this strange olive-y, dark, round and softly bitter taste... and tasted nothing like lemons what so ever. It’s a flavor as hard to describe as cilantro... which reminded me of eau de “Raid” the first time I had it via a gooey noodle roll at the now sadly departed Sam Wo’s in San Francisco... of course now I can’t get enough of the stuff... the cilantro, not the Raid. So like cilantro, pimentón (smoked ground Spanish red chilis) and orange juice marinated chicken (sorry tofu) and the black beans and rice from the Versailles Cuban restaurant in LA, preserved lemons is now permanently inscribed in my lexicon of mythical tastes. Some people dream in color, I occasionally dream in flavors... this is one of them. What can you do with them? We’ll get to that later.
This recipe is one of those recipe that is hardly a recipe... you can do it in your sleep whilst you are dreaming of orange juice marinated chick... tofu.
- Lemons (I would suggest 6 to 8 smallish ones... just get a bag of them from the supermarket, this is not about hand harvested by virgin Amazons Meyers or what have you... they just need to yellow and not too big....like my... oh never mind.)
- Salt (Keep the Breton/Maldon single estate stuff for later... this is just chemistry)
- One of those swank jars with a clamp lid and a gasket.
Here’s what you do:
Take the lemons and cut them into 4 pieces down the y axis... not the x axis you fool! Do not I repeat cut. them all the way through. It should look sort of look like Russian space probe, a fat and very ill orchid or that spore spurting plant from that Star Trek episode where Spock turns into a hippy.
Now take your salt and and pour a generous amount into the now open space probe. Rub it in a little. If you have any open wounds or stigmata on your hands you should probably wear Playtex Living Gloves or consider taking a few days off until you are healed up... this process could smart.
Keeping a goodly portion of the salt (you want lots of salt) within the lemons stuff the lemons into the aforementioned swank jar. (The size of the jar depends on how many lemons you are preserving.)You should really have to push them in there... if you have to struggle to push the lid down you are doing it right.
Add enough water so that the lemons are more or less halfway immersed. As the lemons age... or more accurately rot... they will naturally de-juicify. Ultimately with time you should have around 3 quarters of the lemons submerged in the brine... if not add some more water or a little lemon juice and water.
Clamp the lid shut. Every once in awhile I invert the jar and disperse the undissolved salt. Sometime I flip it over and leave it on the counter. Mostly I just forget them until somebody is coming over for dinner and I have to jazz things up. Time wise don’t even think about using these for a couple of months. Trust me... it’ll be worth the wait.
Et Viola! Our next entry will be on how exactly to use our bright and perky friends.