Food, Home

Late Summer Jam

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

In a rare bout of domesticity I picked a bucket of figs from the tree, opened Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, and set about making fig and balsamic jam. The result was delectable, best enjoyed with fresh bread and ripe brie, or straight from the jar to the tip of your tongue. The process is slow and satisfying, perfect for languid afternoons as the weather turns cool.

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

Thomas Keller's Fig and Balsamic Jam, Late Summer www.bluemesablog.com

Mr. Keller’s Recipe:

2 pounds figs, preferably Black Mission or Kadota, stems removed and coarsely chopped

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, tied into a sachet

Fresh lemon juice

Combine the figs, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and sachet in a large saucepan and attach a candy thermometer to the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring to break up the larger pieces of fig, keeping a chunky consistency, until the jam reaches 215 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the heat.

Remove the sachet and stir in lemon juice to taste. Spoon the jam into a canning jar or other storage container, cover, and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Makes 2 ½ cups

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Food, France

Dehillerin, Paris

Dehillerin, Paris www.bluemesablog.com

[A Note: Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to William, who will be contributing the occasional guest post to the blog.]

I feel ambivalent about eating in Paris, with its discourteous waiters and tourist-trap bistros, but my enthusiasm for the Dehillerin kitchen store is entirely unreserved. Dehillerin was founded in 1820, and crossing the threshold is like stepping back in time. It’s immediately apparent why the store exercises such magnetism over celebrated chefs, from Julia Child to Joel Robuchon—as well as an awed succession of tourists and culinary pilgrims. Copper turbot kettles, duck presses, and other paraphernalia seldom seen in a modern kitchen are all around. Everything from sauté pans to oyster knives displays an old-fashioned, over-engineered solidity. All that planished copper is undeniably beautiful, but it isn’t for decoration: this is kitchen kit designed to be used. Consider the series of K Sabatier knives, beginning with a paring knife and increasing by increments, culminating in a ten inch chef’s knife. The blades are high carbon stainless steel, which takes and holds a great edge; you have a choice of rosewood (my favorite) or stained beech handles; and their balance is impeccable—all for disconcertingly sensible prices. Knives made for cutting, not for display. But the same observation might be made about any of Dehillerin’s utensils and appliances. Visit next time you’re in Paris. Come with a shopping list, but expect to find something you didn’t know you needed.

Dehillerin, Paris www.bluemesablog.com

Dehillerin, Paris www.bluemesablog.com

Dehillerin, Paris www.bluemesablog.com

Dehillerin, Paris www.bluemesablog.com

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Food, France, Texas

Duck a la Presse

Duck a la Presse www.bluemesablog.com

There are only a few places in the world that serve Duck a la Presse, including La Tour d’Argent in Paris, Otto’s in London, Daniel in New York City, and my house down in Texas. My father bought the duck press some thirty years ago. Last time my husband and I were home they brushed off the brass, ordered ducks and about 50 lbs of duck fat from D’Artagnan (www.dartagnan.com), and started pressing. I can’t boil water, but I can watch, so as follows (vegetarians be warned):

The process actually begins some few days prior to cooking. We liquidated three ducks and reduced the stock down to about one cup, to which we added Marsala, Brandy and Madeira.

The day itself you begin by partially roasting a whole duck. We scored the skin and cooked it for about ten minutes in our wood-burning bread oven. You then chop it up (carnage will ensue—I’m still cleaning duck off of the ceiling) put the breasts aside to finish roasting, and put the rest into the press. You twist the wheel to extract the juice, and may need a few hands to twist the press, hold it and catch the juice in a pan. You add the juice and, traditionally, the duck liver to the sauce to thicken it, reduce it further, and pour it over the finished breasts to serve!

It may not be a process for the faint of heart or the short-of-time, and a duck press may not be your average kitchen utensil, but the effort is more than worth the product. We served it with puffed potatoes cooked in duck fat. The sauce was good enough to drink.

Duck a la Presse www.bluemesablog.com      Duck a la Presse www.bluemesablog.com

Duck a la Presse www.bluemesablog.com

Duck a la Presse www.bluemesablog.com

Duck a la Presse www.bluemesablog.com

Duck a la Presse www.bluemesablog.com

Duck a la Presse www.bluemesablog.com

Duck a la Presse www.bluemesablog.com

Duck a la Presse www.bluemesablog.com

Duck a la Presse www.bluemesablog.com

Duck a la Presse www.bluemesablog.com

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Food, Texas

The Esquire Tavern

The Esquire Tavern www.bluemesablog.com

With its dark wood, peeling wallpaper, Edison light bulbs and wild taxidermy, the Esquire Tavern in San Antonio feels like it’s out of another time. Part prohibition-era coffee shop, part old saloon, you can spend hours drinking Moscow Mules and conspiring in whispers by the light of its flickering lanterns. The food is of the high-end campfire kind, the list of libations is long and updated seasonally. Leave time to wander down the moonlit Riverwalk after.

The Esquire Tavern www.bluemesablog.com

The Esquire Tavern www.bluemesablog.com

The Esquire Tavern www.bluemesablog.com

The Esquire Tavern www.bluemesablog.com

The Esquire Tavern www.bluemesablog.com

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