one of those spontaneous recipes, ie. foie arrancini come to mind
I was running out of ideas of what to do with all my winter squash.. Since the fall, I have been squashing away with roasted and puréed accompaniments, fritters, soup, gratin, pasta, polenta etc; I’ve frozen and roasted off a whack that I put up sous-vide for future soups, gratins, pasta and polenta. Enough already. I still have a ton, what to do?? I'm so busy with everything else, the lingering squash are not on the top of my list. But as I tackle year-end & inventory, I know it’s time I clear out the fridge, and I must empty the pretty baskets and process the impressive specimens decorating our dining room to make way for poinsettas.
With my mega tourtiere and paté production underway, the idea of ketchup dawned on me.. I’ve done a squash mostarda before, and made eglantier ketchup (the fruit of wild rose), the pulp resembling apricot and tomato – full umami, vegetal sweet, mild, in fact very squash like. Natural. And I’m already out of classic ketchup, which customers ask for at this time of year when there are no tomatoes .
With a ton of other things going and many other priorities, I didn’t have much time to fuss, I haphazardly threw a few onions, a red pepper and one of our hot peppers along with some spices into a pot with brown sugar and cider vinegar, then added roasted squash. An hour later, I had my ketchup. Not bad, I have to say. Actually ‘pretty f-ing delicious, and who needs tomatoes?’ was my first thought upon tasting. A bit stringy, but I’m not sure I want to purée it Heinz style so that it looks like baby food. I do like a chunky old fashioned condiment, even though the only time I eat ketchup is with tourtiere at X-mas. Maybe I’ll add a touch of wild in the form of crinkleroot or wild ginger, but then again, maybe not, it’s good as is.
Funny, hey.. Occasionally, the best of recipes come out of thin air, without being thought out at all - from a crazy whim, an accident or out of frugality, necessity.
This reminds me of my now classic foie arrancini. Without an à la carte, I don’t have many classics, I’m always changing my menu and like it that way. When a journalist or customer asks me for a recipe, I’m always stumped. There are certainly recurring themes and favourite ingredients or preparations that I riff on differently, but never exactly the same. And none of them involve foie gras or arrancini. I do plan and put a lot of thought into my menus, I usually know what will be winner, and we have a selection of favourites that we package to sell. But then there are the creations chosen by customers that take on a life of their own, sometimes unexpected – like my Champi-Thai soup, or the foie arrancini.
One day several years ago, I had way too many duck and pintade livers on hand and a few bits of foie gras so I made a shitload of mousse, put it on the menu alongside some charcuterie, packaged some up for sale, I didn’t know what I was going to do with the rest. It so happened that I had a catering event that week and needed an extra app, so I somehow decided to make risotto and fold in some liver mousse instead of cream/butter/cheese at the end, made little balls, breaded and fried them, and voilà foie arrancini. I served them with a blackberry juniper jelly, which may very well have been a gelified-tarted up version of a coulis I had running on my menu or perhaps drained off juice from berries for a tart, who knows, I can’t remember exactly. But Lo and behold, this appetizer was a mega hit. Not only the client but guests at the party hired me to do subsequent catering events and requested the same foie arrancini with that same jelly. I had to make them again and again, people still ask for them. But when you don’t have the left-overs on hand, it’s a royal pain in the ass. It’s not a dish I would have dreamed up on my own for the sake of it, it came down to the clock and what I had on hand. Any chef knows this story well. I can attest to daily table d’hôtes forcing my creativity back in the day. But the foie arrancini, such a stupid, delicious concoction that is now unconsientously a part of my repertoire, this always makes me laugh.
Now, it's squash ketchup – similarly not thought up and done on the fly, but I really don’t think it’s so stupid. However, I have yet to see if it’s a hit with anyone besides me and my staff and tourtière.