Follow the culinary adventures and misadventures of the Cooking Agents (Ray and Katie). Watch as we eat/cook our way into adulthood.
Going along with the terms, I began at the end. The last recipe in the starters for La Tradition was Crusty Marrow and Porcini Fricassee. For anyone who is unfamiliar with fricassee, it’s a blanket term for a type of stew usually involving some type of poultry. In Boulud’s case, he used porcini mushrooms as the “meaty” element for the stew. He suggested serving this atop a nice hunk of beef and though I was gung ho about this initially, my enthusiasm took a nose dive once the grocery receipts began adding up. I opted for spending less, which translated into a prewashed box of baby arugula and some homemade red wine vinaigrette (a favorite flavor from my childhood, thanks to Seven Seas!).
The whole process took a little over 24 hours. I say this because it took about 24 hours to let the marrow soak in salted water (2 tsp of salt for every quart), which I changed every 4 or so hours with the exception of my sleep time. The actual prep and cook time took only an hour or so and might have taken less if I were more organized — mental note for next time.
Once my 24 hours were up, it was time to go mining for marrow. Extracting bone marrow is actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. If you refer back to my last post, my marrow bones came in two shapes – short and squatty or long and skinny. I thought the squatty ones would have been the easier of the two, but shockingly no. The marrow was so much softer in the longer bones and came out in a cinch. The others took some careful maneuvering and finally brute force, which involved prodding, poking, squeezing, you name it. You can refer to Allen’s more photo friendly manhandling below.
Marrow Extraction (not an easy task)
Ingredients / Herbs (Thyme, Tarragon, Rosemary, Italian Parsley)
In addition to the ingredients shown above were the porcini mushrooms, of course. I searched high and low for fresh porcinis. Ok, I lied, I searched three different grocery stores because I only had last night and today to go shopping. However, I was unsuccessful at all three — 1) Two Whole Foods 2) Trader Joe’s 3) Stop & Shop. I finally settled on dried organic European porcinis at $6.99 for 1.25 oz. I’m no mushroom guru, but I felt a tad ripped off by Whole Foods.
The Enemy aka The Reconstituted Porcini Mushrooms
After actually reconstituting the mushrooms, I was put off by both the slimy texture and the very strong smell. I would equate this to dried herbs vs. fresh herbs. Dried is always more concentrated and less is always, ALWAYS more. Having no choice in the matter, I stuck with those little suckers and went about dicing my mirepoix and rendering some bacon fat in a skillet. After about 2-3 minutes on the heat, I removed some of the fat from the slab bacon. I then threw in my diced onions, carrots, celery, and porcini followed by the rosemary and thyme. Once the mixture began to soften, I added a cup of dry red wine. I went with Cabernet Sauvignon because I would drink the rest of the bottle, but any dry red will do. I seasoned with some salt and white pepper and reduced until the wine was about 1/4 of a cup.
Add red wine and simmer
While the fricassee was simmering, I threw my cubed marrow into a saucepan of boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Afterward, I dredged the marrow cubes in a mixture of bread crumbs, tarragon, parsley, and salt. The breaded cubes went into a round baking pan under the broiler until the breading started to brown. Note, most of my marrow melted away, which I could have predicted. Going forward, I would probably cube my marrow slightly larger than 1/4 of an inch.
To serve, I used Daniel Boulud’s red wine vinaigrette recipe, which called for dijon, garlic, salt, white pepper, peanut oil and a touch of walnut oil. I lightly dressed the arugula with the vinaigrette, topped with a small serving of the fricassee and finished with a few of the marrow cubes.
Sadly for me, this dish fell slightly below genius. I thought the marrow was delicious and the arugula salad was a nice, crisp addition. However, I’m positive the fall from grace had to do with those dried mushroom slugs. Both Krissie and Allen thought the dish was tasty and had second helpings, but I couldn’t get past the taste of the mushrooms. For anyone who cares to attempt this recipe, I’d say going the extra mile to find fresh porcinis will probably pay off. Despite the shortcomings of the fricassee for me personally, I’d say this was a a great first hurrah for me. I’m excited for the recipes to come.