Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Chef's Table in August

The first local figs were pulled the very same morning; pictured here, still warm from the hot sun.

at the
University and Whist Club
Of Wilmington
August 19, 2011

Vietnamese Spring Roll

The fresh spring roll is soft rice paper with raw vegetables and is eaten cold.  Inside our version are acidulated vegetables, or finely julienne of carrots, bell pepper, cabbage, daikon and scallion in rice wine vinegar with ginger and mirin.  Lastly, we add freshly chopped cilantro and shiso just before rolling.  The dipping sauce consists of pomegranate vinegar, chili, honey and sesame.

Lobster and Truffle Brandade

 More a reconstructed brandade, our mashed Yukon potato is whipped with a milk-butter mixture infused with the poaching liquid of lobster and tarragon.  The lobster medallions are sliced and laid atop the pureed spread on brioche toast with chervil and sea salt.

Argyle Brut, Oregon, 2007
Yet another American sparkling wine made in the Champagne style, Argyle Brut is from Oregon, where both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are gorgeous for this style of wine.  It showed incredible body and fruit, and naturally was a perfect start of a summer meal.

Amuse Bouche
Chilled SIW Farms Corn Soup
with fried clams and nori

I regret not taking pictures of the bi-colored corn from SIW Farms before we cooked it.  The thin veil of sticky sugar on the kernels was visible from having been picked the same day.  It was simmered with a stock made from the cobs and contained only mire poix before it was finished with a touch of cream.  Top neck clams were shucked and lightly breaded and quickly fried as a foil to the creamy sweet texture of the chilled corn soup.  Julienne nori helped bridge the land and sea combo. 

First Course
Terrine of Trout, Fava Beans and Lentils
Ginger roe, caper and radish
Cakebread, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa, 2009

 A cold terrine of smoked trout and earthy lentils made sense in the progression of flavors.  It was enhanced with sweet, starchy fava beans and silky avocado wrapped in a thin sheet of imported ham.  A ginger flavored tobiko, capers, radish and lemon infused creme fraiche brought out the delicate flavor of the trout.  The pea tendril garnish was a nice bite of garden fresh flavor.

Second Course
Squab Breast “Char Siu”
Scallop dumpling and Shiitake in Consommé
Domaine de Robert, Fleurie, Cuvée Tradition, 2009

Scallop, ginger and scallion mousse provided the filling for the dumpling.

Pictured here is the fabled "raft" that develops from when a consomme comes to a simmer.  The beginning stock was made from the remainder of the squab after we pared off the breasts.

 The finished dish resulted in my favorite course thus far in our Chef's Table series.  On its own, the squab consomme and dumplings were a course worthy of their own consideration, but the tender breast of pigeon basted with the home-made Chinese barbecue sauce (char siu) elevated the dish to the sublime.  The beautifully crafted Fleurie from Domaine de Robert was a surprise hit with pairing.  I don't brag about dishes but, this course I am in love with.
Cucumber-Lime-Mint Sorbet

Roasted Lamb Shoulder
grilled baby romaine, olives, feta and mint
Chateau Paul Mas, “Clos des Mures”, Coteaux du Languedoc, 2009

I knew what I wanted this main course to be- basically, a greek salad with lamb.  But, to serve a salad for main course can seem a let down out of seven courses, even if it is the height of summer.  A boned out lamb shoulder was rubbed generously with several spices and marinated for a day.  The lamb was then charred on the grill to give it a nice crust while keeping the center a pale pinkish color.  Since romaine is one of the firmest of salad greens, we tossed them in oil and also quick-charred them, laying them out to wait for the rest of the ingredients.  The still-warm lamb married with crumbled feta, several varieties of olives, chopped mint and a dressing made of sherry vinegar.  The Paul Mas Coteaux du Languedoc was beautiful with the course- something right off a Provencale table.  Spice from the syrah caught the pepper in the marinade, while the gamey cheese was mellowed by the chewy tannins.

Two of the reds poured that evening.  The unique "Mas Amiel" was a surprise hit with the chocolate and banana risotto fritters.

Components of the salad.  Perfectly ripe white nectarines and quartered and sliced cioggia beets.
Various varieties of toy box tomatoes
Building this colorful canvas, we utilized the free time of our cooks who had nothing to cook at the time, to carefully build one of the prettiest dishes we've done yet.

Baby Beets and Nectarines
tangerine lace, Manchego and sunflower seed

The finished dish was a hit with the guests.  Remove one component, however, and the dish would have felt incomplete.

Fried Chocolate Banana Risotto Fritter
Butter Rum Sauce
Maury, Mas Amiel, “Cuvée Spéciale”, 10 yr.

Our first chocolate dessert to date, the fried chocolate and banana risotto fritter was arborio rice cooked in what was virtually a sugar free hot cocoa of milk and extra brut cocoa. The dark, dirt colored rice was turned out onto a sheet pan to cool.  Pureed ripe banana was spread over the rice, and the fritters were shaped with a scoop and flash-frozen.  When it came time to serve, we dropped them in hot oil for 2 minutes, dusted with a cocoa-cinnamon-sugar mixture and drizzled with warm caramel sauce infused with rum.  It was a dizzying experience for the chocoholic!  


Lemon-Poppyseed Madeleines

Fresh from the oven, the seminal, warm Madeleine was just enough of a nibble or two (along with those fresh figs) to say "goodnight".

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