I was supposed to go to Wallse for Christmas Eve dinner, but stupid me told Nate that I will definitely do tasting menu of $80 with wine paring. "It's recession, honey" is something I've been hearing from him daily, and me saying I will have the most expensive menu at the restaurant didn't go too well. So instead, I decided to cook as usual. I've developed this phobia or dissatisfaction of going to restaurants. Except for Babbo's foie gras ravioli with balsamic reduction sauce, I haven't been impressed by notable restaurants much.
Though I didn't even take pictures, I made fillet mignon on Sunday, Lobster on Monday, and this is Wednesday that I am cooking wonderful meal for four. Since it's holiday, I wanted to take extra effort for this meal.
First course - two seafood appetizers. Crabmeat salad in cucumber circle on tomato consomme sauce. Halibut ceviche marinated with yuzu pepper, vinegar and oil on a bed of greens .
I've seen shows on food network using sliced cucumber as a mold to put salad and various items in, and I used the method. Since it's recession, instead of lump crab meat, I bought Jonas crabmeat, which is about half the price. Mixed it with chopped red and yellow peppers, parsley, bit of mayo, mustard, and rice wine vinegar and sugar. It's sort of crabcake without bread crumbs. For the sauce, I peeled tomato skins (by blanching it in boiling water), then cooked them in consomme, then blended everything, shived through to get rid of seeds. Easy pie. For halibut, I mixed yuzu pepper, EVOO, vinegar, salt and pepper, and marinated thinly sliced fish (the best way to slice fish is to freeze it till it's firm enough, then you can slice them very thinly), and marinated it about 30 minutes before dinner time. I didn't want to cook the fish too much by marinade.
To plate them, I put blanched chives in the center as a divider, poured tomato base on one side, then placed cucumber circle. To make cucumber circle, buy English cucumber, and use your peeler, go through it length wise, hope for the best even slices. It looks pretty darn good, don't you think?
I was craving for good duck, so I bought nice duck breasts for main course. I knew my favorite Western Beef won't carry fancy meat like duck, so I went all the way to Whole Foods, but they didn't carry them either.. Is it the same concept as lobsters at WF? Inhumane way of raising or whatever the crappy reason is, they should get over it. We are animal eaters, and no matter how humane or inhumane the way they are raised, they taste damn good, so let's just eat them.
I found an wonderful and totally fool proof way of cooking duck, and followed it. First you cut the fat so that it renders and become crispy when cooking, and sear them until fat side is totally crisp. Put them on baking sheet, cover with aluminum foil and put it aside until 10 minutes before you are ready to eat them. While eating your first course, put them in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, and they are the best medium rare duck ever! The sauce is the complete utter brilliance I created. I've had sauteed foie gras with apples before, and they are quite good. So I made sauce with that concept. Though I still need to improve it (especially the color was a bit too barfy), here is the recipe. Since I was so proud of this sauce, I still remember how I made it (which is very rare for me).
3 apples, peeled and sliced
one tub of duck liver pate (I used one without any vegees or other ingredients)
1 shallot minced
about 1/3 cup of red wine
salt and pepper
butter to cook apples
Cook apples and shallot in butter, when they become tender add brandy (I think I used about 2 table spoons or so), cook till alcohol evaporates. Add red wine and duck pate. Cook till pate is smoothly melted. Add salt and pepper. One way is to pour it over the meat as is, but I wanted smooth sauce, so I blended the whole thing (which might be a mistake, since the color became too gray and barfy). Although they didn't look too appetizing, it was one of the best sauces I've made.
For dessert, I made Japlava. I cleaned out my pantry, and found a bag of red beans. So one day I made red bean paste. I also had a pack of phyllo dough in the freezer, so I've decided to combine them together and make into baklava Japanese style. Maybe using butter was a bit too animally for bean paste, and if I make this again, I will probably use regular oil. (Or is it ok to use oil instead of butter? Any Greek people here to give me an advice?) It was more like Glaktopouriko (the one with custard), than baklava, but it's easier to call it Japlava, than Japaktopouriko..
Next day, we went to my friend's house for Christmas dinner, and had 1982 Chateau Margaux. It was not until next day when we googled and found out it costs $3,500 a bottle... We had two of them with dinner, followed by 1983 Sauterne, finished with 1976 Port. More than $10,000 worth wine was consumed. If I knew, I wouldn't have had 3 huge cocktails before dinner.. I remember it tasted like wine, but that's about it.. Shameful.. Also if I knew father collected wine, I didn't bring wine at all.. 2005 Rioja and 2007 Montepulciano looked such rejects next to dust covered wines from long time ago....
Final note, 2008 is almost over!! This year was pretty pretty crappy, and let's hope 2009 is going to be a better one.. Happy New Year!