February: Recap

February 22, 2009

The game plan

The game plan

So without further ado, here are the dinner photos. Allow me to re-remind you that I am a terrible photographer, and being rushed with dim light helps nobody. You might have to use your imagination a bit.

Red and yellow beets, goat feta, dill, and balsamic vinegar:

amuse beets

amuse beets

These were good. Maybe could’ve use a tad more salt.

Scallop, miso mustard sauce, cress, broiled grapefruit, long pepper:

I wish I’d gotten more color on the scallops. I did the grapefruit in the broiler and that smoked everything up because we have no venting to speak of, so I didn’t get the pan as hot as I should have. Also couldn’t find peppercress. Still: solid dish.

Sunchokes two ways: cold salad and hot soup:

People liked this. Some of the guests hadn’t had sunchokes before, which was kinda cool. I would like the rest of my thumb back, though.

Cheese grits, butter-poached shrimp, mushrooms, hot spring egg, hot sauce:

This was a real crowd pleaser. There were several grit-loving Floridians in the crowd and bowls were licked clean. Unfortunately, I think it was too heavy to fit with the rest of the meal–I definitely felt full after this course. I tried to keep everything small, but even so, too many courses I think.

Celeriac raviolo, braised celery, parsley, fennel, celery salt:

This was okay. I had intended it to be sort of refreshing with the celery–I was debating between this and a lemony pasta. Maybe celery’s just not that exciting or maybe I was getting too full. This was a meh.

Halibut with saffron broth, parsnip puree, spinach, garlic puree, chive oil, grapefruit zest, and parsnip chips:

There is a restaurant in Alaska called the Halibut Hole. True story.

There is a restaurant in Alaska called the Halibut Hole. True story.

This was a partial steal from Thomas Keller–he has a whitefish, parsnip puree, spinach, saffron sauce dish. I added a few things and took a few others away. His is no doubt superior, but I liked it nonetheless. Like I said, the halibut was a last minute but fortunate addition. My problems with the water bath meant that I ended up with hotter fish than I’d planned, but that was probably good since it took a minute to get them all to the table. Successful dish, though a bit fussy. The parsnip chips were really good with it, I thought.

Campari lime rosemary granita:

The survivors

The survivors

Very good. Glad some could be saved after the accident.

Cheese:

Crottin de chavignol, Idiazabal, French raclette, gorgonzola dolce

Definitely not necessary this time, as people were stuffed. I like to have cheese. If I did this menu again, I’d trim from the savory courses.

Brown butter hazelnut cake with yogurt jam and kabocha squash glaze, frozen creme fraiche, candied squash, and brown butter solids:

This was yum. The cake is from the Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook. All around good.

Green tea truffles, mango pate de fruits, earl grey tea cookies:

Mignardiiiiiiiises!

Mignardiiiiiiiises!

Mostly these didn’t get touched, as people were full, but friends had sampled them all earlier and liked them. There’s enough left over for snacking this week, which, score.

My full friends

My full friends

In general, I would say this menu was successful, despite a near-constant level of disaster in the prep. Like I said, there was way too much food. Last month people still seemed hungry at the end, or at least not full, so I added a course. That was a mistake. This menu had a lot more protein and the heavy grits dish, and it was too much. I have a pretty enormous appetite and I was uncomfortably full.

This is where I keep the cat when I am not using him.

This is where I keep the cat when I am not using him.

For next time, I think that I’ll cut a savory course. Or the other thing I’m kind of interested in is alternating “full sized” (though still small, in comparison to a normal meal) courses with tiny ones, like the size of the first beet course.  That might be a lot more work–I’ll have to think about it.

Sleepy Dan

Sleepy Dan

I’m also not sure if having a fish course is worth the extra money good fish costs. It was tasty, but not a show-stopper. Shellfish are so much cheaper and maybe more exciting in the end.

Newlyweds

Newlyweds

I know all of you omnivores are rolling your eyes. I guess I should just try out some different things. Oh and plug in the sous vide machine correctly.

All clean and ready for bed.

All clean and ready for bed.

Anyway, that’s February in the can. I am fully tuckered, but happy. Two down, ten to go. Now, who’s excited about March?

Nico is! Or had better be! Or else!

Nico is! Or had better be! Or else!

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February: Day-of Prep

February 22, 2009

Granita in progress

Granita in progress

Hello again! I am going to split this in half, if you don’t mind, with the rest of the prep here and a separate dinner photos post. If that’s too much, well then don’t read them, geez.

Ouchies.

Ouchies.

So basically yesterday was sort of cursed. Everything came off in the end, but the day started off with me getting up early to get some work done and promptly slicing my thumb in the mandoline. That’s the kind of stupid thing I always figured I’d do eventually. I guess it feels good to be right about something? Unfortunately, we didn’t have any bandaids around, so I had to walk my bloody stump to Rite Aid to get some first aid and gloves. Sigh.

This glove went on to cause problems later in the day. Spoiler alert!

This glove went on to cause problems later in the day. Spoiler alert!

It was a very busy day, with lots of last minute things to do and buy. The fish store was out of black cod for the fish course, so I went with halibut, which actually ended up working better. Gave better texture to the dish.

Steamy mushrooms

Steamy mushrooms

I won’t bore you with the whole list of crap I did, but I was feeling pretty okay about timing.

Squash candy

Squash candy

Too bad stuff kept going wrong. The freezer spontaneously popped open at one point and ejected the container of granita, which, of course, broke and got sticky goo all over the floor. It was too late to make more, but I managed to salvage enough for us to use.

Also, my stupid slippy glove kept making me drop things.

Grits, grits, everywhere

Grits, grits, everywhere

I don’t know if you’ve ever spilled grits, but I’ll be finding these little a-holes stuck in random places for months. Again, luckily, there were just enough left in the container for me to use.

Parsnip chips

Parsnip chips

In any case, things got done. The most annoying part of the whole thing was that I couldn’t get the effing sous vide machine to work. The temp just kept shooting up all over the place no matter what I set the PID to. I was about to tear my hair out when people started arriving and I still hadn’t been able to put the eggs in. They take 60-75 minutes, but the temperature was just too high. My kitchen is the first thing off the front door and so folks were showing up and I was sorta freaking out and hadn’t finished setting things up and was behind on plating and trying to figure out how I was going to cook these eggs and blah. You know that feeling? Plus I just felt generally ripped off because I’d bought that whole machine for nothing. The eggs turned out okay, in the end, and the fish was a higher temp than ideal but still moist and firm, so nothing was ruined, but it sucks to be excited about a new toy that absolutely doesn’t work right when you need it to.

People are getting here at this point

People are getting here at this point

After I had a glass of bubbly and some chitchat with my pals, I relaxed and just turned the machine on and off to keep the water sort of in the right range, which worked fine-ish but still pissed me off. It wasn’t until I was lying in bed last night that it occurred to me: I’d plugged it in wrong. Yup, that was the kind of day that yesterday was.

February: Dateline Ikea

February 17, 2009

Little bowls, plus batteries for my aquarium bubbler

Little bowls, plus batteries for my aquarium bubbler

I am helpless against Ikea’s cheap plates and kitchenware. Bought some tiny bowls and tiny, uh shallow bowls. For amuses bouches!

Chairs! Last month someone had to sit on a bar stool.

Chairs! Last month someone had to sit on a bar stool.

I was short four chairs, so I went and got them. Now each person gets to sit in their very own chair. The car service guys at Ikea are so funny. First the guy tries to quote me $15 for an $8 car ride, then he says I overpaid for chairs. Dude, Lowe’s wanted twice that for metal ones, come on. Anyway. Gratuitous cat shot:

Generally, my cats are fighting with each other all the time.

Generally, my cats are fighting with each other all the time.

February: My first sous vide

February 15, 2009

Boxes boxes

Boxes boxes

So after I made some fake sous vide stuff last month, I decided to pony up for a real setup.

Fakey setup

Fakey setup

The nerds on egullet call it a rig and frankly, I kind of think that is hilarious. I looked around for a real immersion circulator, but I was wary of lab castoffs because of the possibility of carcinogens or weird crap in it, and new ones were way too expensive, so I got a PID controller from Auber Instruments and a steam table and an aquarium bubbler and a vacuum sealer. Wanna see the goods? I hope so:

Waterbath and PID

Vacuum Sealer:

Test steak for Frank:

And the first test dish. This is a not-quite-there-yet version of February’s main course: