Friday, August 10, 2007

What's for dinner (part 3)

So how did it go? And a bit more on exactly how things were prepared:

Melon and Shinkenspeck (squeeze of lime)- what's not to like? A minor variation on the old classic Proscuitto and melon. The fruit was exquisite and the smoky speck (just one slice per portion) worked great. I draped the speck over one side of the melon slice and onto but not covering the top. Pretty contrast between the meat and fruit and also easier to slice since you could get the knife started in the fruit before negotiating the ham. Primo was very excited about this item.

Shaved fennel in EVOO, sea salt, fresh lemon juice, and my pepper melange du jour.
Field greens - organic mesclun and frisee dressed simply in EVOO, sea salt, pepper melange, and Balsamic.

Roast Cod: Cut into (6 oz) portions and marinated in EVOO, with one crushed but not chopped clove garlic, sea salt, pepper melange, two drops pure lemon oil, two dashes orange bitters (couldn't find the orange oil - but it's pretty much the same thing), a pinch of saffron threads, and a tablespoon or so of the brine from the Sicilian Olives (wierd, huh?) Then dredged - one side only, in flour with a little salt, pepper melange, and sugar. Then seared in very hot cast iron pan, then finished in 400 degree convection oven (still in cast iron pan) for about 5 minutes.

Fresh Tomato Coulis:
Peel, seed, and chop fresh tomtoes coarsely. I made about 3 pounds. Add a couple of tablespoons EVOO, six Sicilian Olives pitted and chopped, and salt and pepper melange to taste. Let it sit at room temp. In my case yesterday it sat for about 4 hours before use. I corrected the seasoning along the way. Ended up adding a little bit of the olive brine along the way instead of punching up the salt.

Balsamic Glazed Sicilian Eggplant:
The Sicilian Eggplants are genuinely different from other types, sweeter and creamier, so use them if you can. I cut 1/2 inch round slices across the axis of the fruit. Oiled a sheet pan with olive oil and sprinkled the pan with kosher salt. Set the slices on the pan, sprinkled the tops with kosher salt and sugar and then put about a teaspoon + of balsamic vinegar on top of each. (I had run out of good aged balsamic and so cheated by using the cheap supermarket stuff with the added sugar). Put them in to a 375 degree convection oven until the tops were glazed and the fruit was soft. Took quite a while. Take out of oven and reserve - still on sheet. The whole thing goes back into the oven in the last couple of minutes of cooking the fish later. Of course you could do the whole thing last minute but it's hard to predict the timing of the eggplant and you might prefer to be socializing with your guests. The eggplant does not suffer for being prepared ahead. Primo, once again, very excited with this item - and I have to say I agreed. The textures - crispy top-glaze and skin, creamy soft interior, and the complex flavors were very rewarding. This was easy cooking with a dramatic result. (Be careful when removing these from the sheet for service - They will be a bit stuck to the sheet especially if the balsamic has spilled or otherwise migrated underneath during cooking. Use quick movements with a sharp square edged spatula to cut them off the sheet intact.) And the big rounds looked wonderful on the plat too. Sorry I didn't take pictures last night.

Rice - Nothing special to say.

Wine: Not too cold for this wine. Never had it before, and I was surprised when I first tasted it. I knew it was from Sicily - and thus southern - but it was much more tropical than I anticipated. Lots of glycerine mouth feel, rich - but not in the usual Chard malolactic overtly buttery way - apricots, pineapple (further back), a little sicilian garrigue-like herbal finish. I thought the product was good, but before dinner I also thought I was not thrilled to be into the bottle for $50. BUT - I have to say that when you put it together with the glazed eggplant and also when paired with the fish and coulis, the pairings were magical. Either I got lucky with my pairings or this is just a much better food wine than it is on its own.

The cake sucked. I bought it and I'm taking what's left back. And ...oh never mind.
The Double Rainbow ice creams (available at Trader Joes) were fabulous. Don't eat their ice cream if you don't tolerate milk-fat well, and stay away from their coffee and chocolate flavors if you're sensitive to caffeine at night. They will keep you up. And don't eat the blueberry if you don't want to feel like you've been to Maine. Really good store-bought ice cream.

Oh yeah - the pepper melange for this dinner: (proportions approximate)
In a spice- (or coffee-) grinder, process 4 parts whole black peppercorns, 1 part white peppercorns, 1 part allspice, a little fresh nutmeg (I cut a 1/4" slice off a nutmeg and use about 1/2 of that slice), a couple of cloves (if they're fresh - more if older)
OK - so my procedure is generally to make up a pepper melange for the meal and to use it throughout wherever I'd otherwise be using straight pepper. Of course there are exceptions - but I find that mostly I get away with this. The idea is you develop a spice signature that's subtly different from basic pepper (and hopefully appropriate to whatever you're doing that night), and then by using it throughout in place of regular pepper you connect the dishes in a manner that's impactful but not obvious.

No comments: