I’ve been doing a lot of thinking today about what my future will be like in the Republic of Gilead that will come about in the wake of a Santorum presidency.
I suppose I could just look for the silver linings: I won’t ever fret over not being able to decide what book to read next, because I won’t be allowed to read at all. Plus, Brian and I will probably both be sent to the colonies to die slow deaths from radiation poisoning, so maybe I’ll be able to see him through the chain-link fence one last time before I succumb. Something to look forward to!
That’s why Thursday Night Smackdown will no longer be apolitical and is officially endorsing Willard “Mittens” Romney. I mean, I’m not going to vote for him or anything, but if it helps Santorum to NOT be the candidate, I’ll do it. New Jersey hasn’t had its Republican primary yet, so I can still have an impact. I think I’ll have some t-shirts made:
- With a Name Like Romney, He Has to Be Good!
- Romney Is For Lovers
- Is it Romney, or is it Memorex? (It’s Romney!)
If Santorum takes the White House we’ll all be subject to some pretty harsh sumptuary laws, so I figured the time to be decadent is now, before my cookbooks are thrown into the fire for having too many food photos that excite lascivious appetites, along with my copies of Backlash, Our Bodies, Ourselves and the many history books I own that might reveal that the United States of Jesus have not always been at war with Islamastan.
I recently obtained the Eleven Madison Park cookbook – a stunner for sure – and landed on the avocado roulades with poached prawns and wood sorrel.
I was drawn to the roulades for several reasons (and later found out that Frank Bruni listed them as one of the recommended dishes in his NYTimes review):
- Things stuffed with other things are nearly always good. Like empanadas, or Bavarian cream donuts, or lobsters stuffed with tacos.
- The ingredient list and number of components to be prepared were merely silly and not completely preposterous.
- Leftover shrimp salad means tasty next-day sandwiches.
Step one: Prawn poaching. Okay, fine, colossal shrimp poaching. The poaching liquid, or court boullion if you want to get all Joël Robuchon about it, is a mixture of orange juice and zest, white wine, fennel, celery, leek, garlic, black pepper, fennel and coriander seed, star anise and salt.
The shrimp poach at 140 degrees for five minutes, and are then cooled completely in the liquid before being diced and tossed with diced green apple and avocado, greek yogurt, crème fraîche, mayo and tarragon. Trying to keep a pot of liquid at precisely 140 without an immersion circulator is a minor pain in the ass – just a minor one; it pales in comparison to, say, dying from the infection that sets into the perforated uterus you suffered at the hands of a back-alley abortionist – but it’s worth five minutes of hovering and fiddling with the knobs on the stove for shrimp cooked this perfectly.
Prepping the shrimp mixture reminded me why I never wanted to be a restaurant chef. Because you gotta start somewhere, and “somewhere” means “the station where you have to chop 45 pounds of shrimp into a 1/8-inch dice.” You can’t pass GO and move directly to Executive Chef much like you can’t just apply for a job on the Supreme Court immediately after graduating law school, an insight that would have saved me $120,000 if I had had it in 2001.*
*Seriously, would I not be a great justice? I have opinions out the ass!
To form the roulade, you cut paper-thin slices of avocado and lay them on a piece of parchment so they overlap. Then, you put the parchment into a vacuum seal bag and compress it, which both prevents browning and helps the slices adhere to one another. Or you don’t because you don’t own a vacuum sealer. And then screw you, Amazon reviewer who said that this book did a good job adapting recipes for the home cook.
Once it’s assembled. you use the parchment to help you roll it into a log. Plating includes a simple yogurt sauce, lobster roe oil, lobster roe powder, wood sorrel and oxalis buds. What, does your supermarket not have oxalis in its edible flowers department? Bummer. Maybe you should move to a nicer neighborhood.
Here’s what it looks like when you get it at Eleven Madison Park:
Here’s what it looks like when you make it at home. Try not to cry:
(Please note that pea shoots are playing the role of wood sorrel, tarragon flowers that fortuitously came with my bunch of tarragon are standing in for oxalis, chile powder is filling in for lobster roe powder and lobster roe oil is entirely absent. Did you even READ the book before you left your lengthy review, fellow Amazon purchaser?)
Here’s another angle:
And here are the shrimp tacos your significant other makes because he’s hungry, it’s already 9:15 and he’s not about to wait for you to try for a fourth time to make a presentable roulade:
Lucky for these shrimp that they were stupid good. I’ve poached seafood before, but have never had it take in this much flavor. The sweetness of the shrimp, the crunch and bite of the apple, the tang of just enough crème fraîche and yogurt and the fatty smoothness of the avocado – harmonious. Brian actually preferred the taco form factor because my structurally compromised roulades didn’t have the right filling-to-avocado ratio, but I loved the roulades as-is, with no tortilla to mask the delicacy of the flavors.
I think we’ll definitely have these again, but next time it will be at Eleven Madison Park.
And remember, in this primary season: Romney: The Other White Meat