To Whom It May Concern:
I would like to apologize for a certain incident that occurred at my dinner table last Saturday, March 19th, at around 7:00 PM. In what I believed, at the time, to be an ingenious effort to widen the margins of gastronomical discourse and finally introduce “High Art” and “Pork Products” into “Fine Dining” and “Cake-based Desserts,” I seemed to have served my very unsuspecting and very undeserving guests a dish that can only be described as “Ham Mousse.”
But who can blame me? Sure, my guests, and later me, and tomorrow morning the garbage-men who’ll find it four-days old, but wasn’t it at least new? Meat for dessert! That’s innovative. Although I suppose there’s a reason no one has made this particular innovation. Honestly, though, the mousse didn’t taste “bad.” It tasted vaguely like pate, or maybe boiled hot dogs. The taste wasn’t the problem. (Okay, it wasn’t the biggest problem.) The problem was the texture: thick but wet, soft but squishy, rich but heavy like bloated organs. The appearance, too: like vomited and re-ingested dog food. Even I wouldn’t eat more than a spoonful, and I only ate that out of intellectual curiosity.
So I’m sorry. No more meat for dessert. (I won’t say anything, yet, about meat for pre-dinner drinks.) I’ll still write the recipe, but please, please, for your own sake and for the sake of your lovely, hungry friends, do not cook it.
Recipe: Ham Mousse
Active time: 30 minutes. Actual time: 7 hours. Serves 8 as a first-course.
(Note: this recipe is adapted from Gourmet Magazine’s March 2006 recipe for Chicken-Liver Mousse.)
2 tbsp shallot, finely-chopped
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup Cognac or other brandy
8 oz honey-baked ham, sliced
5 large egg yolks
2/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup maple syrup
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cook shallot in oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until soft. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Carefully add Cognac (if it ignites, remove from heat and shake skillet) and boil until reduced to 2 tbsp, about 1 minute.
3. Transfer to blender and add ham and egg yolks and puree until smooth. Add milk, flour, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and blend until combined. Pour into ovenproof crock (or terrine, soufflé pan or brownie dish, skimming off any foam.
4. Put crock in a larger ovenproof pan and fill outside pan with boiling water half-way up sides of crock. Bake until mousse is just set (a small sharp knife inserted in center will come out clean), about one and a half hours.
5. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then remove from heat and let stand three minutes. Skim froth from butter and pour clarified butter over mousse to cover its surface.
6. Chill mousse completely, uncovered, in a refrigerator, at least four hours. Bring to room temperature one hour before serving. When ready to eat, promptly discard. Pout, if necessary, and apologize to guests.