A Winter’s Feast

11 Jan

Last night, my parents invited a couple over for dinner, and I cooked dinner for the four of them.  I wanted to do a multi-course dinner with wine pairings, so I made an amuse bouche, a pasta course, a meat course, an “interlude” (you will see it was not a palate cleanser but more like a cheese course), a dessert, and a sort of mignardise.  To sate your suspense, I give you the menu with descriptions and some pictures:

Amuse Bouche: Chicken Skin Mille Feuille with Chestnut-Truffle Mousse.

This amuse was my way of kicking off the meal by showing who I am as a cook: I love unctuous flavors, and I love earthiness.  I used a technique I saw at wd~50 (using rounds of chicken skin to sandwich a filling), but instead of making a sandwich, I made a three-layer mille feuille.  To make the crisp skin, I skinned half a chicken (perfectly, I might add–just like helping the chicken off with it’s coat!), cut out rounds of the skin (about 2 inches wide) and baked them at 350 between two foil-lined cookie sheets for about 25 minutes.  I salted them well and then sandwiched them (when cool) with the chestnut-truffle mousse.

I pureed together chestnuts, cream, milk, porcini powder, some truffle oil and cocoa powder, salt, and pepper to make the mousse; my goal was to make the filling for the mille feuille as earthy and “dark” as possible to contrast with the “warm/sunshine-y” and salty chicken skin.  To serve, I put a tiny dollop of mousse on top of the completed mille feuille and then topped it with some salt and crushed juniper berries.  Voila!

mille feuille

Pasta Course: Meyer Lemon Papardelle with Nantucket Bay Scallops and Soft Feather Ridge Farm Egg

I love pasta, and every time I make it, I realize again and again how easy it is to make.  So, when I decided I was making a multi-course dinner, my dad suggested I include a pasta course.  Lovely!  So, I when I saw some beauteous, opulent little bay scallops asking me to cook them from behind a fish counter one day, I decided they’d pair nicely with a meyer lemon pasta.  I added meyer lemon zest to my pasta dough to achieve a nice meyer lemon essence that made the dish warm and gorgeous.

Even though I love a hard-seared scallop, I decided to butter-poach them first before searing them so that they would be nice and rich.  They were perfectly cooked, and I seared the outside before I served them.

The egg is a long story.  Our cousins own Feather Ridge Farm in New York, and we recently stalked them to a farmer’s market so we could buy some of their eggs.  Naturally, I wanted to use them in our dinner, so I made the 5 minute and 10 second soft-boiled egg that David Chang swears by (the 5:10 refers to boiling time), and I nestled a soft egg in the pasta on each plate, surrounded by the scallops, and used a meyer lemon-butter “vinaigrette” as a sauce.  Even though (I am ashamed to say) I forgot to take a picture, the dish was worthy of a center spread.  Luckily, I have more pasta dough, sauce, and scallops, so I’ll put up a re-do picture soon!

Meat Course: “Rabbit and Prune Pie”: Braised Leg, Seared Saddle and Rack, and Terrine

Plum Preserves

Beet, Carrot, and Rutabaga

This course was my baby.  When I went to the farmer’s market in Briarcliff Manor with my parents, I was uninspired by lamb, beef, chicken, and pork (I had just cooked each of those four meats in the past week!)  Luckily, I saw a little boy running around with a sign that said “rabbit $9/lb.”  His randomly running around with the sign must have been divine intervention; I later saw the sign behind a vendor’s table, out of sight from the shoppers.  Were they out of rabbit?, I had thought.  “No!” they had said; they weren’t out!  The friendly British man manning that table procured a beautiful 4 pound rabbit from a cooler, and I was a happy camper.  I’d been wanting to make rabbit, pork, and prune pie, and now I had my beast.

On my way out, I bought some nice carrots and rutabagas, as well as some white beets, which I have never eaten before.  I would use them in my dish as well

How all this came together

I decided to braise the leg of the rabbit, because I figured if the braise made some of the meat dry or tough I wouldn’t be happy, but legs are a safe bet.  When I broke down my hoppy little friend, I harvested the saddle and the rack and frenched the rack.  Those pieces, I decided, I would sear.  When I realized how many trimmings I had from the rest of the body, I decided to make a terrine.  I ground the meat and added egg yolks, cream, brandy-sauteed shallots, toasted hazelnuts, and finely-chopped dates.  After two hours in a water bath in a low oven, I had a beautiful little piece of charcuteries, which I promptly put in the fridge, under a package of butter to weigh it down.

The point of my “pie” was that I’d include elements of a prune and rabbit pie without making a pie.  So, I made rectangles of pie crust with Vermont Butter and Cheese Company butter to put on the plate, and I made spiced plum preserves to represent the prune.

Ultimately, for the vegetables, I made a silky rutabaga puree, roasted carrots, and boiled and lightly charred white beets.  This is how the dish played out:

Left to right: White beets and carrots, rutabaga puree and plum preserves, rack and loin of rabbit, braised leg, terrine. Pie crust in the back.

Interlude: Poached Seckel Pear and Blue Cheese Ice Cream with Pedro Ximenez Sherry Reduction

When it comes to fortified wines, Pedro Ximenez is my baby.  When I tasted it and knew how well it would go with blue cheese, I automatically wanted to somehow pair it with my crazy invention that is blue cheese ice cream.  I planned to simply plate the ice cream with a Pedro Ximenez reduction, but when I saw pretty little seckel pears at the farmer’s market, I decided to poach them in the wine and make a reduction with the poaching liquid.  It was awesome, and everyone loved it.  Especially my silky blue cheese ice cream!

Dessert: Sage Pavlova with Caramel Creme Anglaise

I wanted to pair a dessert with my brown butter spiced rum that I’ve been infusing at home, and a great match for brown butter is sage.  Therefore, since I wanted something light, I decided on a pavlova.  I wanted to make a nice creme anglaise to go on it, and I felt that caramel would play well with the sage and brown butter.  It was a nice dessert, even if I secretly think my rum is king.

“Mignardise”: Puffy Eggnog

After I made puffy eggnog once, I couldn’t forget about it.  I had to do it again.  So, when I was unsure of how to finish my dinner, I said, “puffy eggnog it is!”  I served it in small bowls with stick cinnamon, and it was the perfect cloudish finish to a perfect night.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: