Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jean-Philippe Patisserie - Viva Las Vegas

Do you remember when you were learning spelling in school?  The difference between their and there, too / two / to, affect and effect, its and it's, etc?  I learned all those the hard way, by getting them wrong on test, except for one special case.  Dessert and Dessert.  Dessert (as in the last course of a good meal) had a double "s" because you always wanted double.  And I always remembered that one.   

My first order of business when traveling somewhere is googling the local restaurants and more specifically googling the name of destination followed by the words "patisserie", "dessert", "chocolate", "pie", "bakery" etc.  There's a nothing like the comfort of going somewhere and knowing that your first and last meals of the day are covered, and quite possibly by the same place.  A croissant with a morning espresso and a miniature chocolate cake after a night on the town. 

Having gone to Las Vegas before and done the above research, I made sure to pay a visit to this very special place that is most certainly one of my dessert meccas. 

Tucked away inside the Bellagio, this place has it all - fresh baked brioche, croissants, decadent pastries, made to order crepes, gelato, chocolate gifts and goodies, etc., not to mention a chocolate "waterfall".  Not to spoil dinner by a gorgeous fruit tart or worse a triple chocolate decadent something, my friend and i decide to split a chocolate crepe with whipped cream, fudge, and brownie pieces. 
So as I sat there and waited impatiently for our crepe, listening to a trio of Italians at the next table over talk with their hands and take their espresso, not sure of what to expect of our later afternoon "snack".  And then it came....

Needless to say, dinner was partially spoiled and it was well worth it.  Who said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?  Dessert, in Sin City, is worth the same... if not more. 

Jean-Philippe Patisserie @ Bellagio

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chicken Liver and Mushroom Pate

I am absolutely obsessed with charcuterie.  Almost down to being ashamed of loving some of the things that I love, most of which make an average person cringe.  But I can't even begin to care.  At least not anymore.  For years I have kept my love of beef tongue, head cheese, chicken liver pate, rillette, terrines, etc. secret.  I'd buy the best imported pates, spreads, and cured meats that I could get my hands on only when no one else was at the deli counter, as I would cautiously look around me, clutching the shopping basket already containing a baguette, french mustard, a bottle of wine, and some pickles and olives.  This was almost exclusively done after a long work day, perfectly timing the visit to the store around 7:45 when everyone else has already done their dinner shopping.  But having exhausted the flavors and varieties in the 10 mile radius, I have finally decided to attempt to make my own.  Having purchased Cured: Slow techniques for flavoring meat, fish, and vegetables by Lindy Wildsmith, I felt inspired and decided to venture into the world of charcuterie myself.  This is the first trip - and I am sure not the last.
 Mushroom and Chicken Liver Pate
1lb mushrooms (not white button)
1.5 lbs of chicken livers
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
10+ sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry vermouth
salt / pepper / olive oil / flavored oil (mushroom)
1 stick of butter
clarified butter

Saute onions and garlic with about 5 sprigs of chopped thyme in a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  
When translucent, add chopped mushrooms.  Saute until mushrooms are completely cooked and have browned lightly, adding a bit more olive oil if needed. 
Deglaze the pan with vermouth, scraping up the bits at the bottom.  Add the chicken livers, season heavily with salt and pepper.  Continue to saute until just pink on the inside, about 10 minutes depending on the chicken liver size.  Do not overcook. 
Puree in a food processor.  While the processor is running, add 1 stick of butter, cut into small cubes.  Taste and reseason with salt, pepper, and couple of tablespoons of flavored olive oil.  Divide among containers or jars.  Refrigerate until set - about 2 hours.  Remove from the refrigerator and top with about a half an inch of clarified butter.  Chill until ready to use - at least 6 hours. 

To serve
Olive oil
Arugla leaves / pea shoots / etc.
Salt / pepper

Cut baguette into slices, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Grill or toast in a pan over medium high heat on both sides.  Spoon pate on the toasts and top with cornichons or greens. 

Clarified butter
1 lb butter

Melt butter over very low heat until milk solids separate from the butter - about half an hour.

Carefully pour off the clear top layer, and discard the rest.  At this point, I reheated the clarified butter and added a few sprigs of thyme to infuse.