THE MENU Cold veal and ham pie Lady Henderson's Molded String Bean Salad in the Russian Style Francoise Norrish's Secret Sensational Soft Ice Cream with Blueberries
WHILE THIS meal is lovely as a summery Sunday lunch, with a bit of rearrangement it will do for dinner for any evening of the week. Among the meal's many blessings is that all the dishes are cold and made in advance, yet it has enough substance to be satisfying.
The menu's centerpiece is a veal and ham pie, a gorgeous show-off dish with a shiny crust and pastry decorations in the shape of flowers, leaves, little animals or whatever you like. The recipe, one I have made over the years, keeps evolving and, I think, getting better. The pie is also a snap to put together, particularly when you realize that in cooking, as anything else, things work best one step at a time.
The molded string bean salad in the Russian style (this means the presence of mayonnaise) is a ravishing accompaniment to the meat pie at lunch or first course for dinner, in which case it is best embellished by a ring of good sliced Italian salami or ice cold shrimp. The pie would then be served alone and be followed by a plain green salad and a selection of good cheeses, if you are lucky enough to find them.
Dessert, which I can only call "Francoise Norrish's Secret Sensational Soft Ice Cream," is, I believe, making its public debut today. sFrancoise Norrish, whose husband was the ambassador from New Zealand until a few months ago, gave me the recipe when she first arrived, but with the proviso that I never serve it to her and that I not reveal it to anyone as long as she was in Washington. Now it can be told.
The ice cream is extraordinary for many reasons. It is nothing to make, it needs no churning or second whippings or any other attention once it is put in the freezer, it is versatile enough to accept any kind of flavoring and the result is creamy, smooth and delicious.
When I made the veal and ham pie last week, I substituted for one of the two pounds of veal a pound of less expensive turkey cutlets, which I found at the supermarket. The introduction of the turkey was thoroughly successful, but had I used less veal or none at all, the texture and flavor would have been adversely affected. The minced aromatics, which get sprinkled over the layers of the meats, add freshness and flavor. The black Chinese mushrooms are for texture and interest.
As for the crust, I love the traditional English raised pie pastry, first because it is very good and second for old times' sake. I started to use this crust years ago, when pastry terrified me and I was convinced I would never be clever enough to roll out a piece of dough.
Puff pastry is another alternative. However, I caution against using it when the humidity is high. I buy puff pastry, either frozen at the supermarket (as puff pastry or puff pastry shells, which then get rolled out as as mass) or fresh at the bakery department of the Westbard (bethesda) Giant. Frozen puff pastry should be defrosted in the refrigerator and kept cold at all times until it goes into the oven.
The pan (springform pans are useful because unmolding is foolproof) should be filled with puff pastry according to the directions in the recipe for the unsweetened pie pastry, which is what the French use for their pate en croute.
A sharp knife is essential in making the pie because the meats must be sliced very thinly. I found a packaged country ham (Luter's) that was thin and well trimmed, exactly what is wanted. However, the smoked ham slices needed to be cut horizontally and so did the veal leg steaks. The thinner slices of veal scallopini would certainly do, but they are more expensive. The turkey cutlets come boned and are easily pounded thin.
For this, I use a heavy meat pounder that we dragged back from Italy during one trip when every new acquisition weighted at least 50 pounds. These pounders are now available in kitchen stores. A rolling pin will also do, as will the side of a large can of, say, tomatoes. The meat is sandwiched between two pieces of waxed paper and the pounding, really a light tapping, should start from the center and be directed outward.
When you make the string bean salad, remember that the sides of the egg slices that face down will be facing up when the dish is unmolded; a good egg slicer is invaluable. Look for the best-tasting tomatoes you can find and the youngest string beans.
For this dish, I make thick processor mayonnaise in the following proportions: 1 egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt processed until thick, and 2/3 cup olive oil added in a slow, steady stream. I then thin the mayonnaise with a tablespoon of very hot water, beaten in, and a little cream if it is still too thick. A delicious variation is to use half hazelnut oil, which can be found in good food and kitchen stores, is not cheap, but you don't need much and it seems to be made for string beans.
The soft ice cream is glorious with any fruit. For this meal I coupled it with blueberries and flavored the ice cream very successfully with mirabelle, a liqueur the Alsatians make from a tiny yellow plum of the same name. The combination was right. Mirabelle, like other good liqueurs, represent a substantial cash outlay, but if you can prevent greedy people from drinking it, it lasts for a very long time. My stash of various liqueurs lives in the kitchen and is tapped for cooking only, so I manage to stretch this investment for what seems forever. Cheap liqueurs or bad "cooking" sherry only muck up food. COLD VEAL AND HAM PIE (8 servings) 8 black Chinese dried mushrooms 1/4 cup finely minced parsley 1/2 cup finely minced onion 1/2 cup finely minced celery 1/2 cup finely minced green pepper Freshly ground black pepepr to taste 2 Tablespoons (envelopes) unflavored gelatin 2 cups bouillon 1/2 cup sherry, of a quality such as Dry Sack 1 tablespoon worshestershire sauce 3 slices bacon, blances for 10 minmutes in a quart of boiling water and then rinsed under cold water 1/2 pound country ham, thinly sliced and pounded even thinner if necessary 1 pound center slice smoked ham, boned, sliced horizontally through the middle and pounded thinner 1 pound leg of veal, sliced very thin and pounded thinner 1 pound turkey cutlers, pounded thin Raised pie pastry or unsweetened pie pastry (see recipes below), or 1 1/2 pounds frozen puff pastry, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator and formed into 2 balls 1 egg, beaten
Rinse the mushrooms, pour boiling water over them to cover and set aside to soften for about 20 minutes. Then drain the mushrooms, squeeze them gently, discard the stems, mince the caps and place them in a bowl. Add the minced parsley, onion, celery, green pepper and black pepper and set aside.
Soak the gelatin in 1/2 cup of the bouillon for 5 minutes. Add the remaining bouillon and heat until the gelatin is dissolved. Then add the sherry and worcestershire sauce.
Place each of the meats in a separate small bowl and add enough of the gelatin-bouillon mixture to barely cover. Set the remaining mixture aside. Cover the bowls of meat with plastic wrap and set aside while you prepare the pan.
Line a 9-inch springform pan with pastry (see pastry recipes below). Pour off the gelatin-bouillon mixture from each of the bowls and add it to the mixture that was set aside. Cover the bottom of the pastry-lined pan with a layer of veal, then a sprinkling of the mixed vegetables, then a layer of smoked ham and a sprinkling of the mixed vegetables, next a layer of the turkey cutlets and a sprinkling of the mixed vegetables, then a layer of the country ham with vegetables. Repeat until all ingredients are used but place one layer of bacon in the middle. Put the top crust onto the pie and cut a hole in the center of it. Make a funnel of foil or use a metal pastry bag tip, butter the outside of the funnel and place it into the hole.
Brush the crust with beaten egg, make decorations with scraps of crust, place them on the pie and brush these with beaten egg. Cover the bowl of egg with plastic wrap and refrigerate. It will be needed later.
Bake the pie in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove and let it cool a bit, or until the sides sink in -- this will take about 45 minutes. Then remove the side of the pan by releasing the springform mechanism. Brush the sides of the pie with the reserved beaten egg, place it, still on the base of the springform pan, on a baking sheet and return to a 375-degree oven to brown the sides. Do not remove the funnel. If the top of the pie is browning more than it should, cover it with a tent of foil. Remove the pie when the crust is nicely browned and let it cool for 1 1/2 hours.
If the reserved gelatin-bouillon mixture has jelled, place it over a bowl of warm water to soften. Then, a tablespoon at a time, pour the mixture through the funnel. If the crust has developed a leak, let the gelatin mixture thicken a bit and add it to the pie slowly enough for the meats to absorb it before it has a chance to leach out. Pour any gelatin mixture that the pie won't absorb into a shallow tin and refrigerate. Remove the funnel and refrigerate the pie. When you are ready to serve, slip it off the base of the pan and place the pie on a platter. Chop the remaining gelatin and place around the pie. Slice into wedges and serve. RAISED PIE PASTRY (Ample for a 9-inch springform pan) 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 scant tablespoon confectioners' sugar (optional) 3/4 cup water 3/4 cup lard
Sift together the flour, salt and optional sugar (this adds richness to the pastry) into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle. Bring the water and lard to a boil and pour into the well immediately, bringing the flour in with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a smooth ball. You may need to add a little more flour or a little more water (very hot) to make the dough firm but pliable.
Reserve a quarter of the dough for the top crust. Flatten the remainder and place it on the bottom of the springform pan. Now, using your knuckles, press the dough from the center to the sides. Use light, firm movements. When the base is covered, press the dough up the sides of the pan and allow 1/2-inch overhang at the top rim. Take care there is no thick layer of dough between the base and sides of the pan and that the dough has not been pressed too thinly, especially on the sides. If the dough slips down the sides, it is too hot. Wait a few minutes and start again.
Fill the pastry as directed. Paint the top edge of the dough with beaten egg. Roll out the dough for the top crust and place it on the pie. Press down so that it adheres to the overlap, press together and make a decorative edge. Keep the edges inside the rim of the pie. Otherwise they will crack when you remove the pie. Proceed as directed to cut a hole in the center, insert a greased funnel and glaze and decorate the crust. UNSWEETENED PIE PASTRY (Ample for a 9-inch springform pan) 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled 6 tablespoons lard, chilled 3 egg yolks, beaten, plus enough ice water to make 3/4 cup of a cup liquid
Sift the flour and salt together into a large mixing bowl. Either cut the butter and lard into the flour with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, or use an electric mixer to do this but be careful not to overbeat. Stir or beat in the liquid and mix until the mixture masses into a dough. Add more ice water if necessary.
To make this pastry in a food processor, put half the flour and salt into the bowl and process for 2 seconds. Cut the butter and lard into 1/2-inch pieces and add half of each to the bowl. Process for 3 seconds. Then add half the liquid and process for a second or two, or until the dough barely begins to mass. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, and repeat with the second batch. Then, using the heel of your hand, blend the two batches together. Cut the dough in half, form into two balls, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for a least 2 hours.
To line the 9-inch springform pan, remove 1 of the balls of pastry (or of puff pastry)from the refrigerator and cut it in half. Roll out each half into a long rectangle that is 1 inch wider than the side of the pan and to a thickness of 1/8 of an inch. Press the rectangles to the insides of the pan and pinch the ends together to make one continuing strip. Reserve any excess pastry. Allow a half inch of extra dough on the bottom edge and press down around the base of the pan. Also allow an extra half inch overhang on the top. Trim to even off the edges and make a ball of all the excess dough. Refrigerate this until needed later for decorating the top crust.
Next remove the second ball of pastry from the refrigerator, cut it in half, rewrap one half and return to the refrigerator. Roll out the half you are working with into a circle for the botton crust. Paint the rim of dough on the botton of the pan with the beaten egg, lay the rolled-out bottom crust on it an press gently to make the doughs adhere to each other. Then fill the crust as directed.
Roll out the remaining pastry. Brush the top overhang with beaten egg and place the top crust on the pan. Roll the overhand over the top crust and pinch together to make a decorative edging, but be sure to keep the pastry inside the rim of the pan. Otherwise you will crack it when you remove the springform.
Proceed as directed to make a hole in the center, insert a funnel, decorate and bake as directed. LADY HENDERSON'S MOLDED STRING BEAN SALAD IN THE RUSSIAN STYLE (8 servings) 4 eggs, hard-cooked, cooled, peeled and sliced 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise, perferably homemade 4 large ripe tomatoes, scalded for 30 seconds in a boiling water, then peeled, cored and sliced 1 1/2 pounds string beans, cleaned, boiled for 8 minutes in a large quantity of water and cooled under running cold water 1 tablespoon finely minced parsley or dill
Cut a round of parchment or waxed paper to fit an 8-inch springform pan and line the bottom of the pan with it. Place one layer of the sliced hard-cooked eggs on the bottom of the pan. Use the best slices and places them so that the yolk on the end slices is facing down. Carefully spread a layer of mayonnaise over the egges so that they will stick to the next layer, not to the pan. (A flexible spatula is efficeient for this.)
Next add a layer of sliced tomatoes and spread a layer of mayonnaise over these. Mix about a cup of mayonnaise into the string beans and add a layer of these. Then add a layer of eggs, spread with mayonnaise, and then a layer of tomatoes. Repeat until the pan is full. Cover with a piece of waxed paper, place a plate that fits within the rim of the pan on top and press down well. Refrigertate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. When you are ready to serve the salad, upturn it on a round serving dish and remove the rim, the base of the pan and the round of paper. Sprinkle the top with chopped parsely or dill.
If you are serving this dish as a first course, you can surround the salad with salami slices or shrimps. Slice the salad with a sharp knife in wedges, as you would a pie.
From "Mary Henderson's Paris Embassy Cookbook FRANCOISE NORRISH'S SECRET SENSATIONAL SOFT ICE CREAM (Makes 2 quarts) 6 egg whites 6 tablespoons liqueur or other flavoring* 2 cups heavy cream 1 scant superfine (not confectioners') sugar
Beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry. Fold in the liqueuar or other flavoring. Beat the cream, and when it starts to thicken, add the sugar gradually.Beat until fairly stiff. Fold the cream mixture into the egg white mixture and turn into a pretty serving bowl. Freeze for at least 4 hours. This ice cream remains relatively soft.
Serve with fresh berries or sliced peaches. The recipe can also be halved to make 1 quart.
*Note: Mirabelle is a lovely flavoring if you serve blueberries. Framboise, of curse, is good with raspberries. Grand Marnier, cointreau or kirsch are delicious with strawberries or peaches.