Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dinner for Real! - Whipped Brie de Meaux, Fruitwood Smoked Salmon and Gnocchi, and Cream of Walnut Soup

Promptly at 5, I started with the "real" dinner prep.

(our pretty set table)

First up, walnut cream soup.

I basically dumped everything in the pan and simmered for about 45 minutes, then strained out all of the walnuts.

Meanwhile, I prepared the poaching liquid.

Basically, I just boiled the wine, added sugar and water, boiled some more, added a peeled, cored, and sliced pear, and then boiled. The parchment lid was a little tricky – but luckily Brandon came in for some reinforcement on that.

[pictured: the jerry-rigged "parchment lid." Yeah, that's in quotes for a reason]

Then I pureed the poached pear and a little of the poaching liquid, added the walnut cream, and it was done! Simple stuff, took me less about an hour total.

I then (quickly) trimmed the brie and whipped the heck out of it and prepped the croutons.

Then, time to fill the cornets! I quickly realized my onion cream wasn't thick enough, so I threw it in the mixer and whisked the hell out of it for a couple of minutes. That, along with some cornet crumbs to stop the filling from leaking, and I was in business. Check it:

Oh, and did I mention that I managed to make Alex dinner while doing all of this? Yeah, I rock.

Our guests arrived right about then, just in time to watch me brown the croutons in hot oil, stack the quenelles, and toss some baby mache and balsamic glaze on the plate.

We started with some champagne and the cornets. All I have to say is mmmmmm….. SO MUCH better than I could have imagined. And the presentation was gorgeous.

Next, I brought out the cheese plate. Brandon opened a bottle of Moulin a Vent, which was fabulous. A perfect clean finish. The balsamic glaze was amazing. And cheese and croutons are always delicious.

[not pictured: whipped brie en fuillette. Because it was gone before I could take a picture. Or I forgot. You choose which.]

Next, I quickly poached the smoked salmon (I precut the salmon and I had heated and left the milk at the correct temperature right before people arrived) and sautéed the gnocchi with the stock, brunoise, and chives.

I plated by putting a ring of chive oil around the plate, then put 6 gnocchi, some sauce, and a salmon piece on top. I tried to just put a dot of balsamic glaze, but realized it was a little drippy… so I just made dots connected by a little line. Everyone loved the glaze anyways, so I was sure it would be fine. I topped it all with some baby mache (the recipe called for argula but I wasn't buying two kinds of fancy microgreens; the mache was fine).

[I managed to keep the baby mache on top of everyone else's salmon, except mine... figures. They were pretty, I swear! One of my guests even took a picture of her plate and showed it to everyone at work]

The verdict? Amazing. We had a pinot with the salmon. The oakiness of the pinot combined perfectly with the smoky salmon, the gnocchi sauce was ah-ma-zing. Again, I will say it. Amazing.

Finally, I heated the walnut soup and poured in demitasse cups. I forgot to put walnut oil on top… whoops. But it was delicious regardless. Brandon paired it with a sherry, which I was really skeptical about. Everyone agreed that the nuttiness from the soup went really well with the sherry, so I guess he really does know better than me.

Altogether, my guests left happy (and a little tipsy), I cleaned up happy (and also a little tipsy). And I can't wait until the next dinner!


Fruitwood smoked salmon - Mainely Smoked Salmon (I paid a FORTUNE to have it shipped to me, but it was pretty darned good)

Brie de Meaux - Venissimo Cheese, downtown SD. Best cheeseshop ever!

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