Saturday, February 23, 2013

The big event

Well, once again, I forgot to take pictures of the first course.  But I did take pictures of part of the prep, so I'll just put those up.  

Course #1 was Puree of English Pea Soup with White Truffle Oil and Parmesan Crisps
These are the peas.  It was really tasty and beautiful.  Served in a tea cup, with a parmesan crisp "lid". 

We ate this and the Gruyere Cheese Gougeres (pictured below waiting to go in the oven) while we conversed and just sort of warmed up.  

Course #2, was Salad of Bosc Pears with Roasted Sweet Peppers and Shaved Fennel.  In all honesty, it was supposed to be figs.  But figs are out of season, so we had pears, and it was delicious.  The green stuff drizzled on the plate is fennel oil, and the purple zig zag is balsamic glaze.  I think this was my most pleasant surprise.  I'm not a huge fennel fan, but this was very tasty.

Course #3 was Sweet Potato Ravioli with Sage Cream, Brown Butter, and Prosciutto.  This was SO good.  I have extra pasta in the freezer, and I may just have to make it up again.  There were little fried sage leaves on top, and even though I've heard of people frying herbs quite often, I had never tried it and didn't understand what all the hoopla was.  So. Good.

Course #4, the main course was Braised Breast of Veal with Yellow Corn Polenta Cakes, Glazed Vegetables and Sweet Garlic.  This was my favorite.  The sauce on this was so rich, and everything just went so well together.  The veggies on top are carrots, turnips, celery root, and beets.  This is the dish I was the most nervous about plating because I had to cut the smashed veal breast and polenta out with a biscuit cutter and then briefly fry them.  I was nervous about the cutting and the cooking them without them falling apart, but it was a lot easier than I was expecting.  And we ate leftovers from all the cut-outs (or more accurately, scraps) for lunch today.

Then the cheese course.  This is always an interesting course for me.  I love cheese.  I really do, but not by itself.  I don't love it to have a particularly strong flavor, or to dominate a dish, and it often does in cheese courses.  I mean, really, I think that's the point.  This was was good.  Ashed Chevreaux with Slow Roasted Red Beets and Red Beet Vinaigrette.  We brought this cheese back with us from Paris, because I had read about it and can never find it here.  I froze it, hoping to work it in to the birthday dinner, and it held up wonderfully.  It was a little stronger than when we initially purchased it, but the beets have a strong flavor too, so it worked.  There were supposed to be yellow beets in the mix here, but Earthfare is the only place that sells them, and they were out.  They are milder, but since the cheese had gotten a little stronger, it probably was better that I used only red beets.

Finally, dessert.  Lemon Sabayon Pine Nut Tart with Honeyed Mascarpone Cream.   There is nothing pretty or fancy about this dessert.  I'm really surprised it's in the cookbook.  I have an extra crust sitting in my freezer, and I will make this the next time we have company.  It would have looked a little fancier if I had a tart pan, but I just used a springform pan.  I'm sure it tasted exactly the same, and it was delicious.  Maybe that's why it was in the cookbook.  T-A-S-T-Y.  

The morning after is always a little bittersweet for me.  Sad because it's over, and it's like my one time a year to really stretch myself in the kitchen.  But at the same time, relief, because I can go on with my life.  And also satisfaction from having a really full belly of tasty food the night before! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The big cooking day

So, today was busy.  It started with roasting bell peppers, and braising this piece of meat.

It's a veal breast, or 5 lbs of one anyway.  This is the dish I am most nervous about this year.  It's the one that has the highest probability of getting messed up.  After braising, I had to remove the roast from the pan without the fork-tender-meat coming apart, and then take out the bones and cartilage.  This is what it looked like afterward:

I'm very thankful that my mother was here to lend me two extra arms to sort of maneuver things on this one.  After cleaning it out, you fold it in half, and then smush it.  Tomorrow I will cut a round out of it.  6 of them hopefully.

It was supposed to be smushed down to 3/4" thick, and I was having a hard time with this, so I put my marble cutting board, my cast iron griddle, and an iron skillet on top to try to flatten it out.  It currently sits like this in the top of my fridge (it's in there, I promise).

Then I whittled some carrots to look like little footballs, and gave up on the other cute shapes for the turnips, celery root, and beets, and just cut them up, blanched them, and put them back in the fridge to await assembly tomorrow.   Mom helped me strain my fennel oil (which is a vibrant green), and I made these delicious things to go on top of the pea soup that I'll make tomorrow.  These are parmigianno-reggiano crisps.  Cheese that has been made into a chip-like texture, only more fragile.  The fun part about this, is that they often break and so you get to eat a lot of them while you're cooking, hence the missing one.

And the tastiest thing I made today was this lemon tart.  It's like lemon curd, in a crust, and then broiled, so it  has a creme brulee sort of flare to it.  The only part I sampled was the lemon curd part, and mom and I both licked the pan.  I'm pretty excited to eat it tomorrow.

 Meanwhile, my dad was working on the chicken coop.  I owe him a fancy dinner in return for all his hard work.  Unfortunately for me, the forecast for tomorrow is: 100% chance of rain.  Evidently, my chickens are going to spend their entire life in the dog kennel or else I'm going to have to work in the rain.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mostly on Schedule

So, I haven't made anything interesting enough to take a picture of it yet.  So far just chicken stock, vegetable stock, balsamic glaze (which is just vinegar that you cook for like 8 hours until it's really thick), beet glaze (beet juice & red wine vinegar reduced as previously stated), fennel powder, creme fraiche (yes I make it), and fennel oil.  I did almost cut off the middle finger on my left hand while cutting off the fennel fronds to blanch for 15 seconds before pureeing them in the olive oil to make the infused oil.  It didn't really hurt, mostly because I think I've probably cut through all the nerves in that finger trying to cut it off before, but as soon as I did it, I thought, oh rats, I need to get a band-aid on that before I get blood everywhere.  Anyway, I'll spare you most of the details, only to say that I stained a perfectly good pair of gloves afterwards while working on the chicken coop, because apparently water proof band-aids are only waterproof from the outside.  Once they get full, they just overflow all over the place.  Anyway, so far, all the chicks are still alive, and tomorrow I'm actually cooking something interesting, so I'll try to take pictures.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Preparations Begin

Well, it's time.  I put 3 things in the freezer before our Florida trip: Veal stock, which was really beef stock because I couldn't locate veal bones anywhere, The pine-nut crust for my lemon tart, and the ravioli, which I previously wrote about.  I did end up making more, and I got so good at rolling out that pasta by hand that I actually got 43 ravioli out of the 48 that I should have had from a pasta roller.  So we have plenty of ravioli to eat.  The only thing that I was a little irritated with myself over, is that I accidentally used whole wheat flour when I made the second batch.  I'm so used to using it in everything that I didn't even notice until it was already made, and I wasn't about to do it again.  So we're having about 5 white flour ravioli and eating our hearts out on the whole wheat ones.

These items were only supposed to spend one week in the freezer, but we had an unexpected second trip to Florida that left them in the freezer for an additional week, and well, I think it'll probably be fine.  I did have to freeze my veal breast that I ordered, because I ordered that before the first Florida trip.  I'm thinking that should be ok, too.  I'm just not going to be a perfectionist on this one.

So, there is a bit of a hairy schedule for the week.  I bought a few groceries today, because I'm making more stocks tomorrow, and fennel oil, and a balsamic glaze.  These things can all keep for a few days.  But I have more shopping to do, and the real cooking begins on Wednesday.  Wednesday is also the day we get our chicks (I think).  15 of them.

SO, we also bought our chick feed, bulbs for our lamp, and feeders today while we were shopping.  We have a chicken coop and run to finish up.  I have pallets all over the back yard just waiting to be either disassembled or used as is to finish up the coop.  I'll take pictures.  I may have to post all this stuff after the fact because I'm getting tired just thinking about it right now.