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!

February: Whew, made it

February 22, 2009

Doneski

Doneski

I am full as all get-out. And tired. But the dishes are done and we’re finishing up some wine before bed. Also watching the last Conan on Tivo. Sweet Conan. I’m glad he’ll be on earlier. Anyway, pictures tomorrow. Also my thoughts about improving things. If you care. Which, psych, like you have a choice. Goodnight!

This fixed the truffles

This fixed the truffles

I have been a busy bee. As you can see, I added more chocolate to the truffles and now they hold. I took some to work for our pie day today, and people were into them so I think they’re ok.

Also, I made some sunchoke soup and some parsnip puree. These came off without incident.

And some roasted garlic puree, which is basically the easiest puree of all time:

The parsnips and garlic are for the fish, the soup for the sunchoke duo. I started the kabocha candy for the dessert, though I can’t seem to get the caramelized yogurt to work. I’m not sure if I will just skip it or try and find a substitute.

Squash candy

Squash candy

I also made some brown butter solids based on a smart idea by a commenter on Laurent Gras’s blog. You add nonfat powdered milk into the butter, so you get lots of solids. This is also for the dessert.

To fuel the Friday prep, I enjoyed some margaritas, yum. That there is the head of the penguin shaker I got from Frank for xmas.

pengyritas

pengyritas

Okay, back to business. I braised the celery for the pasta dish:

Braise me!

Braise me!

I roasted and cut up the beets for the amuse

roundy beets

roundy beets

Which of course made a giant mess.

This was way darker than it looks here.

This was way darker than it looks here.

So that’s that. I know I’m mega-jinxing myself, but I feel like I’m better prepared than I was last month at this time. I’m not entirely sure what’s up with dessert, and I definitely still have to buy a lot of stuff tomorrow, including all the fish. Plus the wine. Plus we have to clean and set up. Yikes. Anyway, wish me luck. It is time for me to eat Mexican takeout, watch Adult Swim, and sleep.

February: The Menu

February 19, 2009

These chilaquiles illustrate potential deliciousness

These chilaquiles illustrate potential deliciousness

Here is the so-far version of Saturday’s menu. I have one vegemeshmarian, so I am making some extra courses for him. Someday perhaps I will do wine pairings but not this time:

Two-Color Beets with Goat Feta, Balsamic, and Dill

Seared Scallop with Mustard Miso Sauce, Peppercress, Roasted Grapefruit, and Long Pepper

Veg: Spinach Yogurt Quinoa Tower with Sunchokes, Marcona Almonds, Mustard Miso Sauce, Roasted Grapefruit, and Long Pepper

Sunchokes Two Ways, Hot Soup and Cold Salad

Cheese Grits with Hot Spring Egg, Mushrooms, Shrimp, and Louisiana Hot Sauce

Celeriac Raviolo with Braised Celery, Brown Butter, Celery Leaves, Parsley, and Celery Salt

Black Cod with Saffron Sauce, Parsnip Puree, Spinach, Roasted Garlic Puree, Parsnip Chips, Chive Oil and Grapefruit Zest

Veg: Savory Tomato Bread Pudding, Parsnip Puree, Spinach, Roasted Garlic Puree, Parsnip Chips, and Chive Oil

Rosemary, Campari, and Grapefruit Granita

Cheese

Brown Butter Cake with Kabocha Glaze, Caramelized Yogurt Sauce, Brown Butter Solids, Kabocha Candy, Brown Butter, and Frozen Creme Fraiche

Green Tea Truffles, Earl Grey Cookies, Mango Pate de Fruit

And that’s that. Did some more prep yesterday and today–I’ll upload those photos tomorrow.

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.

Done list, in case I forget where stuff is.

Done list, in case I forget where stuff is.

I started working on things for Saturday’s dinner this weekend, after a good friend who was in town for a few days took off. A nice way to spend a holiday weekend, really. I’ll post the menu in a bit, though there will probably be changes even after that, because something always goes wrong. But so I knocked out some dessert components :

Frank splits a squash

Frank splits a squash

Kabocha glaze

Kabocha glaze

Brown butter

Brown butter

The resulting brown butter cake

The resulting brown butter cake

And some pasta:

Celery root through the food mill

Celery root through the food mill

Ravioli for the celery dish

Ravioli for the celery dish

Yeah, some of those ravioli turned out kind of messed up, but there are a few extra so hopefully nobody will be upset. I’m still not sure about the Thomas Keller pasta recipe with all the eggs. Kneading for 25 minutes sucks and I’m not really sure if it’s worth it. I just need a new roller, maybe. Also, that one really janky one is just the tester, I swear.

Then on Sunday I got to the mignardises. I made mango pate de fruit, which thanks to the fact that both my scale and my thermometer konked out, I expected to be terrible. The internet seemed to think they were touchy and difficult, and I managed to burn the whole bottom of the gel while cooking it so that I had to force it through a tamis to get out the burned bits.

Pates de fruits brulee?

Pates de fruits brulee?

Even so, they turned out okay for a first try. Little sweet maybe, but I ate one today and it was cool.

All sugared up

All sugared up

Annoyingly, the thing that I pretty squarely didn’t do right turned out okay, but  the truffles, which I’ve successfully made a bunch of times, were a mess. They’re green tea white chocolate truffles. I’ve made green tea brown chocolate truffles and they were completely easy, but these were super soft. I already added more chocolate once but I guess because white chocolate is all cocoa butter it’s softer so it takes more? We shall see. Frank and I ate some and they tasted good but were mega sticky.

Turns out this was way too much liquid

Turns out this was way too much liquid

This did not turn into truffles

This did not turn into truffles

Then lastly, I made this earl grey cookie dough that I froze to cook off later:

Cookie dough

Cookie dough

More later in the week, friends. Let’s hope it all comes together.

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: