Dinner for my Parents–they deserve it!

4 Jan

Recently, I decided that my parents might enjoy a night of dinner-for-two, since we don’t have a wide variety of restaurants nearby and they don’t get to enjoy each other’s company in their often busy home environment.  So, I decided to set them up at a table in our newly finished lounge area and lavish them with a four course meal, complete with wine pairings.

They accepted my offer, so last night, I cooked them a nice meal and put on some good music–date night!  I wanted to start them off with a signature cocktail and “bar snacks,” so when they first went up to the lounge, I greeted them with brown butter-vanilla-sage and chestnut honey cocktails, bottarga popcorn, and white pizza flatbread.  I thought the woodsiness of the drink wood go well with the tarragon in the pizza crust and that the infused brown butter in the vodka would go well with the butter in the popcorn.

After they had some time to relax and enjoy their happy hour, I brought up their first course: individual ratatouilles with seared baby octopus on top.  I layered sliced zucchini, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and onions in our small earthenware dishes baked them, covered, so that the herbs (tarragon, thyme, parsley, and lavender) as well as the garlic, would permeate the vegetables.  I had marinated the baby octopus in saffron, sherry vinegar, and tomato, and when I seared it, it curled up nicely to sit on top of the fragrant vegetables.  To go with the “clear” saffron flavor and fresh vegetables, I chose a Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc, which had nice acidity and brightness.

Later, when they had finished their ratatouille, I brought them their salad course, which was kale and roasted root vegetables (parsnips, beets, and sunchokes) with lemon and olive oil and parmigiano regiano.  Since the root vegetables were earthy and the parsnips were almost smokey, I paired the salad with Watermark Merlot from the Napa Valley, a light but dry and smokier wine.  Normally, I would have started with the salad, but because it went better with the red wine and offered a break in heavy food, I thought it was a good idea to serve it second.

My next course was the heartiest one: braised lamb shoulder blade chops with chocolate and porcini ravioli paired with Green Meadow Pinot Noir.  I thought that the nice marbling in the chops would lend well to braising, so I simmered the chops in wine and stock for a couple hours.  I made a chocolate pasta dough and filled it with ricotta into which I had mixed porcini powder.  To serve, I reduced the braising liquid, added some currants, and then finished with a little dark chocolate.  I thought the warm fruit flavors from the wine would go well with lamb, and by adding currants to the sauce I bridged that idea.  Also, the chocolate in the sauce and pasta went well with the fruit flavors and rich lamb.  The porcini echoed the earthy and slightly gamey (not in a bad way) lamb flavor, and so the dish was very harmonious.

Before the grand finale, I sent out a refreshing bite–the first sweet dish.  I made a sweet sake-miso reduction to go under a quennele of beer ice cream, and then I finished it with chopped salted nuts.  It was the quintessential bar food turned dessert, and I knew it would be good for my mom, who doesn’t quite care for sweet things.

Finally–the finish–puffy eggnog.  What is puffy eggnog?, you ask.  Well, I basically made eggnog and turned it into a cloud-like mousse by aerating it in a cream charger.  Even though it had the strength of a good nightcap, it was at once a voluptuous cloud.  My parents truly loved it.  And so did I.

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