Does anyone else have the sense of change in the air, of the "normal order" being inverted, or somehow changed? Annalena certainly does, and some of it is her own doing.
Yesterday, Annalena's alter ego, yours truly, resigned from the job he held for 12 years and, arguably, for 26 years. It was time. But if you think about that: 12 years? That's the length of time it takes to go through grammar and high schools. Let us not even contemplate 26 years.
One of Annalena's alter ego's role models, has always been the pair of characters in "Don Quixote:" the Don himself, and his squire, Sancho Panza. For years , indeed decades, he fancied himself the squire, standing in the background while the Don had the spotlight.
Well, we all know the FIRST part of Don Quixote. I commend the second part of the novel to you. It is more complex. It is also sadder, deeper, and much more philosophical. I hope I do not spoil the story for any of you, but the Don, dies. He dies after he loses a battle, and his spirit is broken. Sancho, in the meanwhile, becomes Lord of an Island.
Putting that aside, however, in the ballet version of Don Quixote which I favor at the end, while visitors lavish love on the Don and Sancho, he bids them farewell. It would be easy to stay, but it is time for new adventures. And off he rides. When I see this ballet, I cannot help but shed a tear or two, and to wave to the Don as he heads off to the new. And I hope that I will inspire some of you to wave a fond farewell to me, as our paths will cross again perhaps , at places other than this blog, which shall continue.
And in the spirit of the new, I present to you something that you've seen on restaurant menus, but had no clue about. A gastrique. The name is a bit forboding: it sounds, at least to Annalena, like some sort of intestinal procedure, or perhaps some intestinal fluid that comes up: "OK, Nurse Johnson, drain the gastrique and we'll proceed."
If I haven't grossed you out, let's proceed. A gastrique, simply put, is a reduction of fruit, sugar and vinegar. It is a very intense sauce, of which you need very little, and is superb on things like scallops .
You start by carmelizing a small amount of sugar: three tablespoons. Put this in a heavy duty sauce pan, and heat it. Keep an eye on it. It will melt and darken faster than you think it will. Once it turns golden, pour a tablespoon of vinegar in it. Your choice. Most recipes I have seen call for sherry vinegar (which would fit in with the Don Quixote type of theme of this post), or balsamic vinegar. I, however, contrarian that I am, used apple cider vinegar and I'm happy with that choice. The sugar and vinegar will seize up immediately, into something that can best be described as vinegar caramel (sounds good to me). Heat it, and it will dissolve. At that point, add a cup of fruit juice. I used blood orange juice, and in fact, the citrus juices are preferred here, but you really could use anything you like. Boil this for about five minutes, or until it reduces by half. Now, you need a cup and a half of some neutral liquid, be it chicken stock, or fish stock, or vegetable stock, or a combination of these with wine. Pour that in, and boil the mix for fifteen minutes or so, until you've reduced it rather heavily. You won't want more than about half a cup or so of final product.
This final product, by the way, will be intensely flavored. There will be NO DOUBT as to what went into it. So, use it sparingly.
The guidebooks say this keeps for three days in the fridge, which means it probably keeps for close to a week. So, if you have some weekend time, and have something on the menu that will benefit from a strong flavor... get in there, and don't freak.. at your gastrique.
The adventures just keep on coming. Annalena/Don Q will keep you posted