Greater effort yields lesser outcome. A comment not, I’m sure, destined to be tacked on the walls of a high school locker room. However, it’s a pretty useful rule for the home cook. Be realistic about your actions. From cone-shaped tuiles, to emulsified sauces, the kitchen is a minefield of sure disaster. Yes, practice makes perfect, but unless you have the time or professional necessity, expect needless devastation in the form of broken, oily sauces, burnt chips, unfolded roulades, and so on. Forget about dried sausages, a potentially life threatening product useful only to slip into an enemy’s drink.
Even years of practice will only yield a shadow of the real thing, Peking duck being exhibit A. We’ve made the stuff many times: rendering with hot, flavored broth, hanging for days, roasting at just the right temperature. And then we sit at Peking Duck House, where a chef in a long white lab coat carves slivers of fat, meat and skin from a cartoonishly golden bird, and stuff ourselves with unctuous, fatty, crispy pancakes. An experience wonderful and dispiriting at the same time.
Some DIY (a loathsome term) projects are, happily, worth the effort. Take the pig in a blanket. Per square inch, a pig in a blanket is a remarkably efficient, compact delivery vehicle for every dopamine triggering, mouth-watering sensation in the human body. The very sight of the things on a tray weaving through a crowd makes us slobber and shove people aside like New Yorkers looking for a cab on a rainy day.
The problem with pigs in a blanket is twofold: you end up with a case of horrible hot dog breath; they’re expensive and pointless to make yourself.
Worst of all, pigs in a blanket are one-note in flavor. They taste merely of, well, tiny hot dogs. The wrapping adds little more than a limp, fatty crunch. And so we arrive at the true benefit of the feasible DIY kitchen project. Not, as it is commonly thought, a feeling of homemade satisfaction, but rather, a superior product. I wouldn’t say the same about, say, homemade cheese, something better left to your local “monger”, but this one is not only doable, but better.
(NOTE: Payard’s book is loosely accurate. To that end, you may have to beat the dough longer as well as scrape down from the sides several times.)
Homemade Sausage and Peppers (See a recent post)
1. To complete the sandwich, warm the buns and sausage separately. Spread on a bit of mustard. Close, insert a toothpick, and serve.
Mini Burgers (from Payard’s book)
Makes about 50 burgers
2 teaspoons active yeast (1 pkg)
3 tablespoons tepid water
2 ½ cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- Sprinkle yeast over water in a small bowl and let bloom for 10 minutes until lightly bubbly.
- In bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, add flour, sugar, salt, and 3 of the eggs. Mix on low speed for a few minutes then add yeast mixture. Beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, add butter and beat 5-10 minutes (see NOTE). Remove dough to a lightly floured table, cover with a damp towel and let rest 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400. Roll dough in all directions to form a circle ½ inch thick. Using a small ring cutter (about ½ inch), cut out the dough.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange burgers on the tray, beat the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush egg wash over the rounds. Bake 15-20 minutes or until very lightly browned. Remove and use immediately or let cool slightly and save in an airtight container.