Elegance and Champagne Goggles for Charcutepalooza

Smoked Trout and Halibut Mousseline with Champagne Vinaigrette

Presentation: a word that strikes fear into my heart – and the most important element of this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge.  I know, I know, presentation should be important to anyone who loves food – but I have to be honest, I’m really all about the taste.  If you are eating in my home, I want the food to look appetizing, enticing, sure, but as elegant as restaurant service? I’m just not that detail oriented. I’m already too much the type-A person.

Once when I managed a bakery in Boston, a wedding cake order was misdated. We thought the cake was for Sunday, but the wedding was on Saturday. In the middle of a busy afternoon, the panicked call came in from the caterer. Where was the cake? It was baked and frosted, but all the fresh flowers still had to be prepped and put on the cake. I called the wedding cake person, I called the owner. No answer. Everyone who works in retail food service knows the only way to maintain your sanity is never, ever to answer your phone on a day off – unless the call is from the cops or the fire department, because at that point, the crisis is actually over.

In the end, I had to put a hundred pink roses on the cake, and make it look like it was worth the money – with just over an hour to pull it together. It didn’t look exactly like the picture but we never heard any complaints. I had nightmares for a few weeks afterward.

If I’d had to frost the cake? All hope would have been lost –and I probably would have told the caterer we’d bring fruit tarts to the wedding and face the bride’s wrath. That’s about as much confidence as I had in my ability to turn out an attractive seafood mousseline.

Still, my other options included grinding up more meat (I actually love chicken liver, but I’m a little burnt out on meat paste at the moment), for a terrine, or sourcing either pigs feet or a pig’s head. K.M.’s been really sweet about the whole Charcutepalooza thing, but he’s still pretty lukewarm about pork. There’s no way I could ask him to stare down either head or toe cheese in the midst of packing up for our move.  And my Polish grandmother used to make pickled pig’s feet – let’s just say they weren’t my favorite.

Which brings us back to mousseline. After a few hours spent internet surfing for my ideal fish combo, I came up with a plan.  Fresh Alaskan halibut, fresh and smoked trout– yes, of course, I smoked it myself. Just because I don’t want to deal with a pig’s head doesn’t mean I’m a pansy about everything – capers, and a champagne vinegrette. And I’d garnish it all with the last of my most recent batch of duck prosciutto – just to bring Charcutepalooza full circle this month.

I wasn’t expecting it to win any beauty pageants – and well, it wouldn’t. But my Halibut and Trout Mousseline is an elegant tasting appetizer, smooth and creamy with a hint of salt and smoke, and the pure flavor of the halibut.  Make no mistake; this dish isn’t the belle of the ball.  Still though, combined with lemon cucumbers and a few flutes of champagne, she’s a great conversationalist.


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