Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's for dinner: Fancy birthday dinner

Not surprisingly, I try to fix dinners with “Dave’s Favorite Things” for special occasions. In truth, I try to do that most of the time anyway. But for the dinner tomorrow night, I get to take things a little over the top. Menu for tomorrow night:

  • Ahi Sashimi “Noodles” on a bed of daikon radish strings, wasabi cream, white sturgeon caviar. I will take sashimi-grade ahi tuna (raw) and cut it into very fine julienne to resemble red noodles. I have a Japanese tool that cuts things into skinny twisty strings, and will put the ahi on a bed of that. For the wasabi cream I will bring heavy cream to a simmer and add wasabi (Japanese horseradish) powder; it thickens the cream immediately into a nice sauce. That will go around the ahi pile, which I will then garnish with some osetra caviar that should be arriving by air tomorrow.
  • Tomatoes and Pearls, Caprese-style. Organic heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella “perletti” tossed with a fresh basil and shallot dressing, with a chervil herb salad and fresh baguette. For the dressing, I blanch basil and shock it, then blend with extra-virgin olive oil to a loose paste. Blanching it helps keep it green, even when exposed to acid that would normally turn it brown. I’ll grate some shallot into that, and whisk in some white wine vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. I will chop the tomatoes into approximately ¼” dice, so they are about the same size as the adorable little balls of cheese. The tomatoes and cheese get tossed with the dressing, then “spilled” over onto a bed of chervil (an herb we don’t see much of, the flavor is a blend of anise, celery, and parsley but much more delicate) that I grow in my AeroGarden. Along with that we will have bread from a local bakery whose baker won the World Pastry Cup for his bread, beating out the French. It’s a bit of a drive to pick it up fresh on the afternoon of dinner, but a very special treat.
  • Surf and Turf au Béarnaise with Sweet Potato Gaufrettes The surf is jumbo scallops, seared to a deep brown caramel crunch on each side. The turf is a prime NY strip steak, seared on each side then finished in the oven to medium-rare. The steak will be sliced to serve two, and fanned on a plate with a drizzle of Béarnaise sauce over the top. The scallops will be plated two to the plate, on a swirl of the Béarnaise. Since the primary flavor of Béarnaise is tarragon, of course I will garnish with a tarragon ruffle of some soft. Gaufrettes of course are just a fancy name for potato chips, but they are usually cut so the resemble a fine mesh screen. I will do that on a mandoline and then deep fry the sweet potato slices and pile them in a bowl, seasoned with fleur de sel, a special French sea salt gathered by hand from marshes, in this case from the south of France.
  • Baked Alaska Brownie Sundaes Dave has always wanted to try having Baked Alaska at home, so I’m going to give this a try, making it up as I go along. I’ve baked two 4” circles of pecan-toffee brownies, and in a 4” round pan lined with plastic wrap I have layered one cup of fudge brownie ice cream and one cup of dulce-de-leche ice cream. I will make a soft meringue topping, then layer the frozen ice cream block between the two brownies and cover it with the meringue. It then goes into a 450 degree convection oven for 5 minutes or until there’s a little brown on the tips of the meringue swirls. (Wish me luck!!)

Ok, back to the kitchen with me. I have a lot of prep to finish today so that Dave doesn’t have to sit down to dinner tomorrow with a sweaty, frantic, exhausted wife. And in truth, today is his birthday so I do need to do something a little special today as well – probably mojitos and a Korean-style flank steak with rice, garlic glazed carrots.

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