Sunday, September 6, 2009

Epi-logue Epic

Will you just feast your everlovin' eyeballs on those puppies? Have you ever seen anything prettier in your entire life? Okay. Your kids. And your grandkids. And maybe Sean Connery for those of you of the female persuasion. Well, yes, chocolate is mighty pretty. The list can go on so let me concede the point and just say the above photo is ONE example of pretty. Not only that -- it is also an example of creative engineering and, blessedly, much easier to accomplish than it appears. Therefore, should you choose to make a bouquet of these critters to present as a hostess gift next time you're invited to dinner, you will be almost ashamed to accept the awestruck compliments you're sure to receive.

What are they? The French call them "pain epi" and Wise Geek has this to say about them:

"In French, epi is the word used to describe the flower of a wheat stalk. Since pain, roughly pronounced “pan,” means “bread” in French, epi bread may be listed as pain epi at many bakeries."

What epi bread is, is a clever way of putting all your dinner rolls on a stem, like a little choo choo train with all the cars linked together. You just tear off one of the "seed heads" of the wheat stalk and dip it in whatever is provided and start wolfing down that crispy crunchy crust and the tender fluffy center that laps up your olive oil and balsamic vinegar -- or your melted butter -- or whatever. I've been going to try this for a long time and finally got around to tackling the project earlier this evening.

The recipe I used is adapted from one a charming young man named Pete offers at his web site, where he calls it Cheesy, Savory Monkey Bread. Pete, in turn, adapted his recipe from one offered by Chris Pandel, a popular young chef at The Bristol in Chicago. His version is called Monkey Bread With Dill, Butter and Sea Salt. My variation on their versions was a healthy dose of my Lemon Dill (because I didn't have any fresh dill) and a quarter cup of grated Parmesan (because I didn't have any fresh Parm) but otherwise I kept pretty much to what they said. Except, of course, for turning the dough into epi bread instead of monkey bread. Works for me, she said with an unrepentant smile.

For the magical moment when you actually turn your bread dough into wheat stalks, I have two links for you to enjoy. The first one is a very short but impressive demo on YouTube. The other is a photo shoot of epi making at the Fig Jam and Lime Cordial web site. (You have got to love a name like that!)

So I did my version of the monkey bread recipe and was grinning like a fool when I discovered clipping a branch of epi was actually as easy -- and fun -- as it looked. I didn't indulge in all that butter like the guys did, though. Just brushed the epis with some olive oil and sprinkled a small scatter of coarse kosher salt across the top. Put the pan in the 375 degree oven and set the timer for 20 minutes and then I decided to get artsy fartsy with my spread of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The idea was to put the vinegar in a shot glass, put a dish over it, then turn them both over so the glass would contain the vinegar. Then I was supposed to drizzle the oil around it, quickly whip the glass up and -- tah dah! -- there would be a little pool of vinegar beringed by olive oil.

Heh, heh. As you can see, I fumbled the pass and lost half the vinegar in the flip. Had to mop it off the table. That's why the purple puddle has a Rorschach-like tail. Please don't tell me what you see in that image. I'm laughing too hard at my own vision.

It really didn't matter because very shortly after I sat down with a small glass of some pretty good Australian Shiraz, the Rorschach puddle got thoroughly reshaped anyway. I am here to tell you, Coffee Mates, the next few minutes were pure bliss. I don't mind admitting, I moaned when I ate. It was wonderful. I dipped and munched and sipped and dipped and munched and sipped and -- in a magical confluence of the Forces of Light and Goodness -- all that sipping and dipping and munching came out even. That is to say, I decided I was stuffed at exactly the moment I emptied the wine glass.

And no wonder. I was shocked to discover I'd actually wiped out half of one of the epis! Shocked but not really surprised. When something tastes that good, accidental gluttony should not come as a surprise. As I sit here and gaze upon the final shape of the culinary Rorschach, I've decided it is a fitting epilogue to the epic Epi adventure. No, I will NOT tell you what I'm laughing about now.


John Bailey said...

Good crusty bread, olive oil & vinegar and a glass of wine... very hard to beat. Especially if there's a bit of thou at the table and that thou doesn't object to a bit of moaning and groaning and gluttony!

Dee said...

Perfectly said, John! As a matter of fact, while I was munching the crunchy, I was thinking about how it was probably something you would enjoy. May we always moan in harmony!

Wendy said...

Oh, yum. Just in time to go with fresh pesto.

Bonnie said...

Here I sit 7:30 a.m. haven't had a bite to eat. This is the wrong place to come! :-D

Le Vieux (the Old Guy) said...

This is not mere bread and wine and a bit o' thou. This is a gustatorial masterpiece of Epi-c proportions. And despite your prohibition, I would say that your Rorschach totally reminds me of Barbapapa. Vive le pain epi!

The Old Guy said...

I meant Barbapapa of course.

Dee said...

Mmmmm -- fresh pesto. Good thinking, Wendy!

Sorry about that, Bonnie. I'll try to eat the rest so it won't be sitting there, taunting you. (smile)

Bill, I think you're right about the Rorschach blob. But how do I get those Barbapapas to do a few chores around here?

Stephanie said...

Oh my, that IS a feast for my everlovin' eyeballs!

kate et jim said...

It's 7 p.m. and I haven't had my supper yet - now I'm wishin' I had some of that bread! And Wendy's idea of the Pesto sounds terrific!

Kate said...

Dee, you have not lived until you use dark fig balsamic vinegar in the olive oil, and dip fresh French bread in it. Positively orgasmic!!!