So after some reflection and bouncing off of ideas, I think for now the menu looks sorta like this, which is similar to what I posted yesterday, for obvious reasons (and theses are not in order yet):

Raw fennel salad with candied blood orange and olive puree

Brussels sprouts custard (bite-sized) with roasted Brussels sprouts leaves

Citrus cured salmon dice (tartare? ceviche? cevitare?) with pomegranate seeds and fennel fronds

Cauliflower miso mustard puree, pickled red cabbage with mustard seeds, fried (or sv?) quail egg

Pimenton-infused carrot cube with carrot-lemon-cumin broth and a candied carrot curl

Broccoli “marrow bone” filled with cheesy broccoli puree, roasted broccoli salad with raisin vinaigrette, shaved raw broccoli

Rancho Gordo flageolet beans with bacon, red onion confit, sv short rib, and kale chips (no I will not be eating this course. Frank is tasting the tester for me.)

Dessert will be some combination of chocolate, chilli/pepper, and ginger

So now testing shall commence. I definitely need to try out the whole meat dish. I am sort of torn about it, because I’m doing all that work and I don’t even get to find out if it tastes good, but I’m curious about trying more meat cookery. I hope Frank has good suggestions. I will probably try the cauliflower egg dish in its entirety because I have leftover puree, the Brussels sprouts definitely, the carrot cube definitely, and the rest I’m not sure.

It’s weird because if I were charging money for this, or if I were in any way a professional, I’d test all of the dishes a bunch of times, but I’m not and I’m not and I don’t really have the resources to test and fix everything. Sometimes I regret only having one time to make everything and never improve on each individual dish. Ah well. Hopefully guests’ll like it anyway.

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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: 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.

January: Recap

February 15, 2009

So yeah, this blog didn’t exist when I had the first dinner, because I had no idea if it would work and the plan of doing a monthly thing hadn’t taken shape yet. Basically, I owed my friends Billy and Nico a thank you dinner for watching my cats and instead of doing something reasonable, I decided to cook a bunch of courses and invite six other people. But it worked! I’d only had two other dinner parties before, and both had an element of complete disaster to them, but this actually went smoothly.

Before I show you the dishes, let me just reiterate that I am a shit photographer. I just have a point and shoot digital and frankly zero artistic talent (plating is another weakness of mine.) If you were hoping for food porn, I apologize in advance. These are illustrative at best. Sorry to food cock block you. Anyway, onward.

The menu:

Butter-poached shrimp with salsa:

A straight rip from the French Laundry cookbook, pretty much, though I did a pseudo-vide butter poach in a ziplock on the shrimp and ditched the unseasonal tomatoes. Oh and the one shellfish-allergic friend got a vienna sausage mit saurkraut.

Shrimp and sausage a la Keller
Shrimp and sausage a la Keller


Hot spring egg with mushrooms, cauliflower, and truffle toast
:

Another pseudo-vide application. I have since gotten a PID controller from auber and a water bath–more on that later. I know hot spring eggs are kind of two years ago, but for a non-mammal-eater like myself they are pretty amazing. Still figuring out how best to unshell them. Chantarelles were sauteed in butter and thyme and reheated for service, cauliflower just roasted in the oven, toast was buttered with butter I mixed with truffle salt. Tasty. There will be many more hot spring egg dishes throughout the year.

Hot spring egg with winter garnishes and truffle toast
Hot spring egg with winter garnishes and truffle toast


Celery root soup with chili oil
:

Man, I love celery roots. They’re so weird tasting. I’ve always hated celery, but lately I’m really liking it, and I credit the roots. This soup was just diced celeriac simmered in veg stock until soft, put through the food mill, and enriched with cream and thyme. Usually I mix half-and-half  celeriac and potatoes, but I thought just the celery root would be a more pure flavor. I was wrong–it took way too much cream to get it to feel creamy enough. Potatoes really helped with the texture. Anyway, this was good but not great, and I think the chili oil was too spicy for some (though I love it.) I know people say spice is a palate killer, but I like it mid-meal. It feels like sorbet or something. I may be alone in this.

Celery root soup with chili oil
Celery root soup with chili oil


Orange salad with mint and almonds:

Taken from Penelope Casas’s Delicioso!, which I got for xmas. It was, in fact, delicioso. Winter’s kind of tough in terms of what produce is good. I like to alternate heavy stuff with citrus, because citrus is awesome. Whoever decided to make winter citrus season was clearly trying to keep me from getting SAD. The salad is easy, just orange sections, mint, red onions quick-pickled in orange juice, marcona almonds, and a citrus vinaigrette. The best part was that these could be mostly done ahead.

Orange salads. Sorry I forgot to take a picture of them out of the fridge.
Orange salads. Sorry I forgot to take a picture of them out of the fridge.


Fennel, artichoke, and olive agnolotti with brown butter and mushrooms:

I don’t think I’m alone in immediately thinking of the French Laundry cookbook when considering a complicated meal. This was supposed to be the artichoke ravioli from one of the fish dishes just made into agnolotti (which, side note, I know TK makes his agnolotti like tiny ravioli but I always thought they were more tortellini-like? Aren’t they named after pope hats? Not that it matters since as you will see my pasta looks more like wadded up tissues. Kleegnolotti?) but unfortunately there weren’t any good artichokes to be had. I know, they’re not a winter food and that’s why but they taste wintry to me. I subbed canned (I couldn’t even find frozen) knowing it wouldn’t work quite right and it didn’t. The artichoke hearts were braised with fennel and mirepoix and veg stock and olive oil and wine, but the canned chokes didn’t pick up any real flavor. I ended up pureeing them and the fennel with some of the braising stock and some olives, which tasted great. In the end, it was a good main course and nobody could tell it was the product of a fuckup. The mushrooms were chantarelles and hedgehogs just sauteed in butter and thyme

Fennel, olive, and artichoke agnolotti with mushrooms and brown butter.
Fennel, olive, and artichoke agnolotti with mushrooms and brown butter.

Lemon thyme granita:

I know it’s traditional to serve the sorbet after the penultimate savory course, but it has always made more sense to me as a transition to cheese and sweet. Sue me. This was just a simple syrup infused with lemon zest and thyme, strained, added to some lemon juice, frozen, then raked with a fork.

Lemon thyme granita.
Lemon thyme granita.


Cheese with Anna’s peach jalapeno jam:

Anna is my awesome sister. She lives in California and is launching a preserved foods business. Stay tuned for updates on that, as this jam was kickass. Cheeses were clochette, humbolt fog, garroxta, and Roaring ’40’s blue.

this picture is actually upside-down. The blue went last.
Cheese: this picture is actually upside-down. The blue went last.

Olive oil cake with candied olive and kumquat, blood orange sauce, and olive oil gelato:

Olive oil cake from an epicurious recipe, Mario Batali’s olive oil gelato, which could’ve been really good if I hadn’t majorly fluffed the attaching of the ice cream maker arm to my kitchenaid. I can never remember the right way to do that, so I ended up with the batter sitting in the frozen container for too long. Bad texture. It was fine though. Blood orange sauce was just reduced juice, candied olives were cooked in syrup then put in a low oven for 24 hours. The olive oil was a nice fruity Basque one I got from Fairway. This dessert was a success, by my reckoning. I was a little worried the elements wouldn’t come together, but it was very citrusy and floral. The ice cream had a little lemon salt on it, which gave everything a pleasant savoryness.

olive oil cake, blood orange sauce, candied olives, candied kumquat, olive oil gelato with lemon salt, olive oil
Dessert: olive oil cake, blood orange sauce, candied olives, candied kumquat, olive oil gelato with lemon salt, olive oil

Candied orange peel and salted caramels:

Mignardises. I worried nobody would have space, but they all got eaten. The caramels were left over from a holiday box I made and the peels were from all the citrus in the dinner. Next month I’m getting a little more ambitious with second dessert. I swear, fine dining was basically invented by the hobbits. Two desserts. Sheesh.

Billy, the guest of honor, and Zack enjoy candied orange peels. Well, I hope they enjoyed them.
Billy, the guest of honor, and Zack enjoy candied orange peels. Well, I hope they enjoyed them.

Whew! That post was almost as long as the dinner. So there was January. February planning is well underway, so expect some details on that shortly.