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.