August 31, 2008

Our Wedding

So much has happened since my last post that I don't really know where to start. Generally I'm inspired by Emily's photographs, but in the last couple of weeks she's taken about five thousand of them - this is going to take a couple of blog entries.

First things first - we're now married. We had a lovely wedding, which went perfectly. I was expecting something to go wrong - they say it always does - but it was great. People had fun, the setting was beautiful, and our dance worked out well.

Emily will go into better detail on her blog, but here is my summary:

We had an intimate wedding at the Acqua Hotel in Mill Valley, about 40 people were able to attend. The wedding was outdoors, on a lovely little lake with the mountains in the background.

The rehearsal dinner was down the street at Buckeye Roadhouse - a place that we happened across a few years ago after hiking in the Marin Headlands, which turned out to be in the list of top 100 bay area restaurants. They did an excellent job, details to follow.

It was a little cool out, but the guys didn't notice in their tuxes. After the ceremony, there was a cocktail hour, which started a little earlier than planned. During that time, Emily and I had photographs taken. After the cocktail hour, we had a sit-down dinner catered by Piazza D'Angelo in Mill Valley.

After a bit of mingling, we had our first dance, a foxtrot choreographed by Alyson - the part of the wedding I was most nervous about. It went really well, despite a couple of missteps on my part and Emily having the extra difficulty of dancing in a wedding dress. Learning the dance was a lot of fun. Alyson did a really good job teaching us the dance and designing a beautiful and cute dance that matched our skill level. (I got the easy part.)

The cake was beautiful. Emily had gotten a spiced "Carrot Cake" from the Shannie Cakes. She did the cake tasting with Alyson, so I hadn't tasted it before the wedding. When we did the cake cutting, I decided that the cake was really good and we should do a second take. I'm sure the photographers appreciated it.

There were a lot of people who were unable to make it - travel has gotten expensive and budgets have gotten tight - but the size was really nice. We were able to spend a lot of time with each guest, eat our entire meal, and have a fun, relaxing time. We hope to have a reception in Michigan around the holidays to catch up with some of the people who couldn't make it.

After the wedding we spent the night at the Acqua Hotel, got up the next morning and got ready for our honeymoon on the big island of Hawaii.

to be continued...

June 15, 2008

Got my Goat

and by lamb, i mean goat
Confit of Goat Ribs with Ratatouille

So I finally got around to making the "Colorado Rack of Lamb" dish from the third season of Top Chef. I saved the recipe back in October, with the intention of making it. I quickly made the olive oil poached tomatoes with a roast chicken, but didn't get around to making the whole dish.

Last April, when Rich was visiting, I bought a half rack of goat to use for this dish and then realized that it was a summer dish (summer squash, tomatoes, etc.) - it has been sitting in my freezer since. In the last few weeks, I'd been looking for the "white anchovies" called for by the recipe with no luck.

By now I'd been almost regretting this - I'd put it off enough that expectations were raised so high it was bound to disappoint. Still, I picked up some zucchini and eggplant at the farmer's market on Thursday and started thawing the ribs. Saturday morning, I got some heirloom cherry tomatoes, and a spherical yellow summer squash that I can't identify.

That night, I put the herb rub on the ribs and decided that they needed to be trimmed. They weren't quite frenched the way I wanted. I tied them and put the rub on and left them in the fridge overnight. I was a little burned out, so I decide to make the sauce Sunday morning (the recipe specifies that it sit overnight).

For the sauce, I used some anchovies that I cured a few weeks ago. I had picked up some fresh anchovies from a farmer's market when I was returning from picking up our marriage license and cured them that night per the instructions in the Zuni Cookbook.

Sunday night, I put everything together. I brought the duck fat, the rub from the ribs, and some of the sauce to a simmer in the smallest pan that would fit the ribs, seared the ribs, and put them in the fat and turned off the heat. They finished cooking while the fat cooled down kinda like cooking sous vide without the bag. After 25 minutes the oil was down to 135 degrees, and the ribs were perfect. Meanwhile I made the eggplant sauce and cut up the squash.

In the end, the dish was very good, although it took a bit of duck fat to make. I may make the dish again someday, if I've got enough duck fat on hand. I do reuse the fat from my confit, so I may have it at some point in the future. (I wouldn't reuse the fat from this dish, too much random stuff in it.) Otherwise, I'll definitely reuse some of the components.

The Sauce Vert was tasty and would make a very good dipping sauce for bread - if I dial back on the garlic a little.

The eggplant sauce would also be good paired with the right dish. I'll have to figure out what to pair it with.

April 29, 2008

wagyu fajitas

wagyu fajitas

So now we've finally got a picture of the fajitas, one of our regular dishes. I saw the wagyu skirt steak at the grocery store and decided to make some fajitas with it. The marinade I use is lime juice, soy sauce, chili powder, rice wine, and a bit of sugar. I roast and slice poblanos, slice some onions, then use a stir fry method to make the fajitas.  It's not entirely traditional, but it works.


April 14, 2008

The Usual Suspects

I was looking through Emily's flickr images and thought I'd throw together an overview of the dishes that are currently in our regular rotation.

carbonara 1
Fusilli Carbonara

Our Fusilli Carbonara comes from the book Italian Easy. Their recipe substitutes fusilli for the traditional spaghetti and prosciutto for the traditional guanciale or pancetta. The smaller pasta is easier to eat and the sauce sticks to it nicely. Recently, we've been using Boccalone pancetta in lieu of the prosciutto.

chile verde
Chile Verde

We usually serve Chile Verde when we have company, especially for mexican-themed holidays. It's a pork chili with tomatillos and roasted poblanos. It started as my attempt to reproduce a dish from a mexican restaurant in Vegas.  I've posted a version of the recipe is posted on recipezaar.

Chicken Roulade

The chicken roulade is a Gordon Ramsay recipe that I adapted to our tastes. It is a boned out chicken leg and thigh wrapped with prosciutto and stuffed with sausage, currants, and shallots. I serve it with a cheesy risotto. It's a regular dish, but I'm still tweaking the sauce.

Onglet à la bordelaise (avec pommes frites!)
Onglet Bordelaise

Steak Frites is another regular at our house. We make it almost weekly. The recipe is loosely based on the steak frites in the book Bouchon. My changes are to make the sauce à la minute, scale back on the butter a little, and add some more shallots. I like to use onglet for this, but occasionally use skirt steak. (The original called for bavette.)

sea of sushi

We have sushi at home once a week. Typically it's salmon rolls and sashimi, california rolls, and oysters. I'm still looking for a good source for sushi quality hamachi nearby.

Pizza Margherita

We usually have pizza margherita for lunch on the weekends.  We have a couple of basil plants that we harvest and use a local buffalo milk mozzarella. It's much better in the summer, when the tomatoes are in season, but I have a source for local hot-house tomatoes in the off season. 

Rigatoni with Sausage
Rigatoni con Salsiccia

A few years ago, I found the recipe for rigatoni with sausage in Tastes of Italia magazine, and it's been in our regular rotation since. The rigatoni is served with arugula and a simple sauce of tomatoes, garlic, sausage, and balsamic vinegar. (I don't have an Emily photo of this, so I included an old one that I took in Vegas.)

Steak Fajitas

Steak Fajitas is another regular dish, but we don't have photos of it.  I typically use skirt steak, marinated with lime, soy, chili powder, and some sake or sugar water. I stir fry it with onions, roasted poblanos, and serve with tortillas,  black beans, and crema.

Pumpkin Penne

The pumpkin penne recipe originally came from Rachael Ray. It's penne served with a sausage and pumpkin sauce. We've had bad luck with Rachael's recipes in the past, but we like this one.

April 09, 2008

Lemongrass Sea Bass

sauteed bass with lemongrass

A couple of weeks ago I made a Joël Robuchon recipe that I've had on my to-do list for well over a year.   The recipe originally caught my attention because of the amount of lemongrass involved. I halved the recipe, so about 5 stalks went into it. 

I sautéed striped bass in lemongrass oil and served it with a lemongrass cream sauce, roasted tomatoes, blanched green garlic, and fried, julienned leeks. (I substituted green garlic for scallions because I had some on hand.)

It turned out well, we'll definitely make it again. The sauce was very good, the lemongrass came through nicely. I also liked this method for cooking tomatoes, quartered and baked with some olive oil and herbs.  They were sweet and had a nice, concentrated tomato flavor. I made them again the next day to serve with a roasted game hen and potatoes.

April 08, 2008

Bacon-wrapped Salmon

On monday we had bacon-wrapped salmon. We used a recipe that Chef Daniel Boulud presented on an episode of Martha Stewart's show. It was accompanied with a red wine sauce and celeriac purée.

raw ingredients

The celeriac was cooked in milk with some thyme and garlic and mashed with some of the cooking liquid and some browned butter. It turned out well, although I might up the butter a little bit. (Or at least add some more milk solids to the butter before browning it.)  I left out the salsify because I couldn't find any. 

fish in the skillet

I considered not making the red wine sauce. I wasn't sure how well it'd go with the salmon, but Emily suggested I give the recipe a try as-is. It worked out well, although I wish I had reduced it bit more and left the shallots in the sauce. (I didn't read the recipe carefully enough and strained them out.) It's somewhat hard to see the sauce in the photo - I think it would have photographed better on a white plate, but my corelware plates don't have the thermal mass to keep the fish warm.  (We put some nicer plates on our wedding registry.)

salmon with celery root puree

Because the bacon was doubled on one side of the fish, the inside layer didn't crisp up to my liking, and I think the thickness kept the salmon from browning on the end.  I will make sure the doubled bacon is not on the presentation side next time.

February 17, 2008

Valentines Day

This year we decided to stay in and have a nice meal at home for valentine's day.  About a month in advance Emily went through Elizabeth Falkner's book, Demolition Desserts and picked out a dessert for our special meal. And of course she chose what had to be the most complex dish in the book, the Battleship Potemkin. (The instructions run four pages and reference recipes on three other pages of the book.)

It took a few more weeks to get the other courses out of her.  She wanted oysters because seafood seemed right for valentine's day -  she had fond memories of last year's meal at Fresca.  Since we have oysters weekly with our sushi, I decided to make it a little extra special and prepare Keller's "Oysters and Pearls" recipe.  And for the main course she asked for steak. I planned on doing my typical beef tenderloin. (Poached briefly in wine, then seared.)

Then about a week ahead, I realized there was almond flour in the cake. After a little research,I decided to substitute desiccated coconut and a bit of all purpose flour for the almond flour. On the Sunday before, I got the flu and was fairly miserable for a few days.  I did manage to prepare the Cocoa Nib Streusel that Sunday. Fortunately, I was well enough on wednesday to start my prep.  I got supplies at the Ferry Building and Sun Fat, then  I made sushi for dinner, without oysters, and I made the base for the Oysters and Pearls: tapioca cooked in milk and cream with some whipped cream, crème fraîche, and sabayon stirred in. I also made the ganache, chocolate shortbread cookies, truffles, strawberry sauce, and chocolate ice cream that night.  And then I was quite tired. :)

Thursday morning, Emily surprised me with some scones that she had made the day before.  They were quite tasty.  After work, I went with Dan to fetch the meat and found that they were out of tenderloin at Drewes Bros - which we were both planning on cooking.  They did have the short bit of roast from the small end of the tenderloin.  I told Dan to get that, wrap it in herbs and prosciutto, and roast it.  I got a cowboy steak for Emily and me.  (I've done the tenderloin dish before - Drewes often sells the small end of the tenderloin for quite a bit less than the middle, and it works well.)

oysters & pearls

Above is the "Oysters and Pearls" - I used American Paddlefish roe, which was the cheapest but still cost me $35 for an ounce. (We didn't use all of it, I could easily have served 4-5 people from that jar.)  It was my first time making a sabayon sauce and beurre blanc. I'm not sure if I'd whipped cream by hand before.  We're definitely going to do this again, although I will want to make smaller portions.

steak & potatoes

This is the cowboy steak - essentially a bone-in rib steak.  I sliced it into 1/2" slices and fanned them out, making it easier to serve on a shared plate.  To accompany it, we had pan-roasted potatoes and my usual green beans. (Blanch, sautée with shallots, and finish with salt and a splash of rice wine vinegar.)

warm white chocolate cake

And here is the dessert that I slaved over.  Emily isn't a fan of raspberries, so I used strawberries and strawberry sauce instead.  I substituted desiccated coconut for the almond flour in the cake, and used the Bouchon cookbook recipe for the chocolate ice cream (I wanted leftovers). I got a bit of cocoa powder on the plate (behind the cake) so I sprinkled a bit on the rest of the plate.

I used the leftover ice cream, sauce, and streusel for my birthday party the following day.

It was hard work, but it was tasty and a good learning experience. The cocoa nib streusel went over really well.  Emily was eating small bowls of it before valentines day, everybody who sampled it loved it. I even sent some home with  Rob and Traci after they tried it at my birthday party.

February 09, 2008

Morelity tale

chicken dish

Emily was off working Saturday, so I decided to use some of the dried morels that I've had in my pantry for way too long. They were foraged and dried by my Grandfather, who lives in Northern Michigan. I had put off using them because of Emily's allergies.

I mostly followed a Gordon Ramsay recipe for pan-roasted chicken with potatoes, asparagus, and a morel velouté.  I left out the thyme, because I forgot to pick it up at the store, used dried morels in lieu of fresh, and left out the pancetta, because I'm saving it for carbonara with Emily. (In retrospect, there is a wee bit of guanciale in the freezer that I could have used.)  Also I used two cubes of homemade chicken demi-glace in lieu of chicken broth.

The result was probably one of the best sauces I've made to date.  I have a handful of morels left and definitely will try it again.  And the pan-roasting technique is a nice way to get a roasted chicken without making a whole bird.

February 07, 2008

Buta no Kakuni

pork belly 2

The year of the pig is over, and we gave it a proper send-off with Morimoto's recipe for Buta no Kakuni - slowly braised pork belly. Actually assembling the dish was a bit of an adventure - I was missing two ingredients: burdock root (used as a garnish) and conpoy (dried scallops, 江瑤柱).

I started it on Saturday, braising the pork belly for 7 hours in water and brown rice.  On Sunday, I started soaking the rice in a homemade scallion oil.

On Monday, I walked through Chinatown looking for conpoy. I found one place, but they only had a 1lb bag for $39 - I didn't want that much and thought they were taking advantage of me, so I passed it up. When I got back to work, I looked it up and found that it was a reasonable price.

I'd planned on finding a place off of Grant street on Tuesday, to buy bulk conpoy. But on the way back from dropping Emily off at her show, I found a place in the Richmond that sold conpoy.

The dish was tasty, but night quite what I expected.  I think after three days in the making, my expectations were pretty high, and I was a little rushed because I wanted to feed Emily at a somewhat reasonable hour.  In retrospect I would have liked the congee to be a little more watery and a little more broken down, like Carmen's jook. The sauce should have been a bit thicker (more reduced). And I would have liked the meat to be a bit more tender.  Next time I'll use lower temperature, a bit less brown rice, and reduce the sauce a bit more.