Don’t take the Pithivier

So remember those duck legs I didn’t use yesterday? And the duck offal? Well today they went into a Pithivier. More specifically a Pithivier de Canard et Ris de Veau aux Pleurotes, avec Sauce au Poivre Long. Duck and veal sweetbread pastry with oyster mushrooms, cherries and an Indian pepper flavoured sauce.

I mentioned during Intermediate Cuisine that I’ve always wanted to make one of these pie things. Albeit a savoury version. They look so cool. Now I got the chance.

This Pithivier wrapped layers of forcemeat, veal sweetbreads and duck liver.

The Farce or forcemeat was a real humdinger. Meat from the duck legs and no need to get fussy over the fat, some of the duck liver, plus the gizzards—chop, chop, chop to mince by hand. In went a duxelle made with oyster mushrooms, shallot and butter. Chopped parley and thyme. A panade of breadcrumbs and double cream. A splash of cognac. And finally some chopped pistachios. Season. Gloves on. Mix. Scrunch, Squish. Sounds awesome right?

The neck, wings and bones from the duck legs were chopped up and browned in the oven. Mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery lifted the Sucs. Red wine deglazed. Stock added. Infused. Skimmed. Passed. Skimmed. Reduced. You know the drill. While all that was going on, the sweetbreads were blanched, refreshed and the membrane peeled away. The duck liver was pan-fried in butter and rested.

A small pudding cup (which I use for Mise en Place) was rinsed and lined with double cling film. This helped extract the filling onto the pastry base later. The bottom and sides of the cup were lined with forcemeat using the back of a spoon. In went a sweetbread. Then more forcemeat followed by the duck liver. More forcemeat on top. Another sweetbread. And forcemeat to seal the base.

This was turned out on a pastry circle, the cling film carefully peeled away, and pastry delicately manoeuvred into position then sealed with the thumb with the aid of egg wash. The base was then carefully crimped and the Pithivier eggwashed twice with a spell in the fridge in between. Spiral lines from the base to the centre top were created using the back of a knife. Apparently, in the village of Pithiviers where the pie originates all roads lead to the centre of town. The last act before the oven was to puncture a hole on top as a chimney.

Cherries were halved, the stones removed, and softened in butter and sugar. The stones and stalks were added to the stock along with a long pepper for the last 15 minutes.

At the grand unveiling, when chef cut through my Pithivier, the layering looked great but my liver wasn’t pink. I’d pan-fried it for too long. Chef said as soon as the blood emerges take it out of the pan. I think I lost myself in the basting. I wonder though if the liver would retain its pink centre given the Pithivier spends 20 minutes in a hot oven.

Sadly I forgot to take a photo my Pithivier. Shame. I was quite pleased with how it turned out. No matter. I really wanted to have another go anyway. Chef said I shouldn’t be “cheap with the puff pastry.” Meaning, I should’ve used more to cover the forcemeat. I fell for following the recipe again. When I tried to find more pastry it was nowhere to be found and the clock was ticking. I got marked down for serving late again. I also put too many cherries on the plate. And they should’ve been placed cut-side up. Silly mistake. I’ve been told about that before—if I cut something, plate it so the customer can see what’s inside. This principle is clearly demonstrated in chef’s version below. You can see inside the cherries. You can see inside the duck heart. And you can see inside the Pithivier.

Chef’s Pithivier with cherries and oyster mushrooms

Here’s a Pithivier I did at home. I’m still not happy. Puff pastry is a nightmare to handle in this weather so I didn’t produce the finish I wanted. Actually I think the one I served at Le Cordon Bleu was better. Time for another go?

My home attempt at a Pithivier

In the demo, chef also prepared Pavé De Saumon en Croûte d’Amandes avec Fenouil et Vinaigrette à l’Orange et Thym Citron. An almond crusted salmon steak with fennel dressed with an orange and lemon thyme vinaigrette. We didn’t get to do this recipe in practical so I gave it a go at home. The crust was made with butter, fresh breadcrumbs, ground almonds, potato starch, an egg, and almond flakes. This forms a dough of sorts that was rolled between baking parchment then placed in the fridge to harden. Later it was cut to fit atop the salmon steaks, which were cooked in the oven.

For the salad, the fennel was shaved on the mandolin and the shavings placed in an ice bath in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to crisp up. The zest and juice of an orange was slowly reduced to a syrup with lemon juice and left to cool. A few orange segments were reserved for the salad. To make the dressing, lemon thyme leaves were stirred through the syrup. While whisking olive oil was added until emulsified. The fennel shavings were patted dry, orange segments added and then dressed.

Fennel tops were used as garnish. Simple, summery and quick. Delicious if you like salmon.

I made it at home for Roberta. I managed to get a bit more colour on the crust by grilling the fish rather than using the oven.

Chef’s almond crusted salmon with fennel, orange and lemon thyme salad

My version of almond crusted salmon with fennel, orange and lemon thyme salad