Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Aviation dinner

Pan Am is a new show coming out in the States, and while I don't have a particular 60s obsession I don have a Christina Ricci obsession.
I loved Addams Family so much when I was younger, my mum had to have a serious conversation with me about not drinking poison and electrocuting myself. I've watched everything Christina Ricci was in and totally wanted to be her until she lost a ton of weight and got a spot on Ally McBeal. Anyway, I can't wait until it comes out over here and I can start comparing it to Mad Men.
A few months ago, when I was in the throes of Aviation admiration I decided that airline food is actually a glamorous, sophisticated institution and decided to recreated it on solid land. Less life imitation art and more Plato's Theory of Forms, whereby you cannot really know what is real because all you have known up until now could have been a shadow of reality. Who is to say airline food is an inferior kind of food, it might not even be food at all, it's like comparing a chair to a painting of a chair - two totally different things.

Researching airline meals is actually a very fun thing to do, especially if you only have very limited personal experience. The first stop should definitely be Airline Meals, which catalogs reader submitted photos of airline meals (believe it or not). You can spend hours trying to decide what the brown stuff is or how sticky the tray looks, but ultimately it's way too much information.
When I went to University one of the 'rules' we had for writing essays was to quote at least three sources to back up our ideas (yeah, it wasn't a very good university), so I didn't feel comfortable making a decision without some more input. I asked around, and nobody could tell me the last thing they had to eat on a plane. Most airlines don't publish their menus online, but if you're willing to wait for it someone will eventually put a vintage one up for sale on Ebay. I hit the jackpot and got 10 identical PanAm menus from the 60s.
These feel really special, the menu inside is exactly the same but each cover depicts a different destination, exotics such a Yugoslavia, Japan and Portugal etc. The meal on offer, in French and English, is Leek Soup, Veal Duroc with Buttered Noodles, Salad and Dessert. This is a very interesting article about the cost of airline meals then and now and the reason meals are even being offered on planes, count yourself lucky, buddy boy. And let's just say I ended up spending more than £2.50 per head.
Leek soup
It's actually very very difficult to find a recipe for leek soup, almost everything I found had been fleshed out with potatoes which I suspect are there mainly for texture and dilute the flavour of the leek. Here is the recipe of the leek soup I made (but didn't photograph). The taste is creamy, slightly oniony with a great balance of sweetness with the sour notes. Once blended the colour is jade. Simple and cheap (and popular)
Bit of butter
4 leeks, chopped (green parts too)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 glass of white wine
grind of pepper
1.5 pins of chicken stock

Fry the leeks in butter until soft, add in garlic and wine and cook for 5 minutes. Put in the pepper and stock and cook, covered for 45 minutes. Blend, adjust seasoning.

Veal Duroc
Good luck Googling this one. As well as being a forgotten French sauce named after one of Napoleon's generals, Duroc is also a breed of pork, so recipes will be for roasting pork, chops, sausages. Type in 'Veau Duroc' and you'll get one or two recipes in French, formatted in the most mind boggling way. Below is the recipe I used, it calls for things difficult to find in the supermarket,which I suppose is a good antidote to the austerity soup above. I got the veal in Selfridges (but I'm sure there are more cost effective sources), grew the chervil on the window sill and bought obscene amounts of powdered veal stock in France. The stock was the hardest part, the least cost effective option it to make it yourself, you just aren't ever going to have veal bones just lying around. I made the mistake of buying some liquid veal stock from Fortnum and Masons to use on a dry run and the resulting sauce was bitter and rancid tasting. By chance I saw chubby Knorr tubs of the powdered stock on a supermarket shelf in Chamonix and feverishly swept the whole shelf into my basket (you can buy this on the internet btw), the resultant sauce was sweet and savoury, herby and very very good. What's the big deal, why not just use beef? Because in comparison to veal stock, beef stock tastes like fat boy's farts. Trust me.
10ml oil
100g butter
8 veal medallions
40g flour
250g mushrooms
40g shallots
40ml cognac
1 glass white wine
500ml veal stock
1tbsp tarragon
1tbsp chervil

Heat oil and butter and fry off floured medallions, 7 mins each side. Set aside and fry chopped mushrooms and shallots in the same pan, flambe with brandy and delgaze with wine. Pour in stock and reduce until thick. Pour over medallions and sprinkle with chopped herbs.

Vertical Pear Salad. I love.

This ended up being a little disappointing. Initially I wanted to use this recipe by David Lebovitz, which was supposed the be very similar to the pudding he developed for Virgin Atlantic. But I just didn't like it. It had the taste and texture of Angel Delight, which is a bit meh.
I briefly toyed with the idea of serving the dessert they had on the Hindenburg - that is to say, nothing, but didn't have the balls to be quite so conceptual. I ended up making trifles with grape jelly, and my fondest hope is that everyone was too drunk to pay attention to it.
We hope you enjoyed your flight.

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