Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Oysters and Pearls"

Subtitled: Now I can say i've tried oysters, and I still don't like them.

Like so many other people, i've always just looked at oysters and have been squicked out.  I don't like things that are slimy, i'm not a huge fan of 'briney,' so i've always just assumed I wouldn't like them.  So this was the big test.  Oh, and i've never had caviar either - but I have picked it off of lots of things - but for some reason i'm not as scared of it (probably because I know that it basically tastes like salty fish, and I like fish now, so i'm not as concerned as I am about the oysters).

And you know what?  I can now say for sure: I do not like oysters.  Which is unfortunate given that there are like three oyster dishes left.  Luckily, I LOVE shucking oysters, so I don't think i'll mind making the remaining dishes all that much.  I know this probably makes me weird, but wedging the knife under and that 'pop' was somehow gratifying.

And if I haven't scared everyone away by thinking I am some kind of knife-obsessed freak... here is 'oysters and pearls'!

First, I shucked the oysters.  I did not get nearly as much oyster juice as I should have.  I just discovered last week, however, that my oysters were miniature compared to other oysters (my husband and his friend actually ordered oysters voluntarily at a restaurant!).  So maybe you need bigger oysters to get more juice?  I don't really know, all I know was that I ended up just adding a smidge less juice to the oyster infused cream.

Next, I started soaking the tapioca in milk.  If you are in a hurry, do this first.  I wasn't - in fact, I was really trying to delay things - so I waited a bit.

The tapioca mis:

While the tapioca was soaking, I "infused" some cream with oyster juice.  I had a couple of extra oysters, so I just went ahead and tossed those in (to make up for having less oyster juice), along with the oyster "trimmings."

Then it was time to cook the tapioca!  I basically just combined the oyster-cream with the tapioca pearls.  I have never made tapioca before, so it was really cool watching the tapioca pearls puff up as they cooked.

A closer look:

Simultaneously while cooking the tapioca, I whisked the eggs for the sabayon, and warmed them over a pan of hot water, whisking all the while.

At the same time, I whipped some cream in my mixer (which everyone has seen plenty of times, so you don't need to see it again here).

When the eggs were warm, the tapioca was thickend, and the cream was whipped (which I actually managed to time so that they all happened at exactly. the. same. time - success!), I combined (along with the creme fraiche and pepper) and poured into my mini ramekins.  I think it actually looked like it was supposed to!

Right before serving, I warmed the ramekins in the oven while making the sauce.  The butter-laden sauce (along with some super-reduced vermouth, warmed oyster, and chives).  I spooned the oysters over the top, along with some butter-sauce, and a tiny scoop of caviar (not osetra - i'm not feeling that flush these days - but I did get some good paddleback caviar which the internet swore was a great replacement for osetra).

All done!
I guess I should have started this blog by commenting on my victi... um, guests.  One person couldn't make it at the last minute, so we invited my brother in law and his fiancee, who are both simultaneously the pickiest and least adventuresome eaters in the world.  I questions husband about this invite (no, really, it would have been fine to have only five people)... but he thought it would be good for the picky eaters.  I'm not sure why he thought this, but he did, and he invited them anyways.

So, with that background, I had high hopes the butter sauce would hide the taste of oyster.  It did not.  I believe I heard gagging as they actually tried the caviar/oysters (in fact, I think BIL had never even tried tapioca!).  I get it, because I felt that way a little too.  I mean, it even LOOKS like someone blew a snot wad onto the dish before I served it (whoops, I think I wasn't supposed to mention that...).  At least I did like the tapioca and caviar, although they were incredibly rich.  Husband, and his other two friends all liked oysters and raved about it, so I really think this is a personal-preference type of dish.  Or maybe they are just better at being polite than I am!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dinner 6: Branching into the Unknown

The menu for dinner 6:

"Oysters and Pearls"
Ashed Chevreax with roasted beets
"Peas and Carrots"
"Salad du Printemps"

Seeing this written... my first thought is, wow, I put together a menu with lots of quotes.  It is also a menu of things that i'm not crazy about (see, e.g., lobster, oysters, caviar - although that is growing on me, and fennel).  And each of these things are spread out between each of the dishes... so we will see if there are any that I love.  Or even like.

(I admit, I obviously know the answers to all of these as I write this, since I made this dinner about a month ago.  The result: a mixed bag.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Candied Apple: The Longest Dessert Ever

So, in addition to the fact that this is the longest dessert ever, I wrote this giant long blog post about it.  And published it.  Yet, now, a week after publishing it, it no longer appears.

So... I guess this just means you get pictures!  And to know that this freaking dessert took me THREE DAYS to make.  But it turned out beautifully (well, other than my complete failure in making twisty cookies), so I can't complain much.

Ice cream mis:

Reduce Apple Juice:

Make a custard:

Later, combine and make ice cream.

Moving on: Apple Rings

Cut and core them:

Closer view:

Poach them:

And don't forget to put them in the dessert at the end!

Part 5-jillion: twisty cookies

Cinnamon and sugar:

On puff pastry you already made:

Cut into pieces you can theoretically twist:

Twist them a lot more than this.  In fact, before you do any twisting, look and see what the twisty-cookies are supposed to look like.

(Hint: its not this)

Oh good lord, there is more?!

Creme de farine:

Make "infused" spice liquid

Reminisce about how much you hate cream of wheat while you stir and stir:

Remember this has mascarpone in it, so maybe it won't be so bad:

Put it all together:

Oh, but wait, first you have to make a apple juice reduction (luckily you did this a few days ago and just forgot to take a picture).  And you have to coat the creme de farine discs in milk and panko, and fry up beautifully.

Remember how I said not to forget the apple rings:

Remember those apple rings after having served two; frantically run back in to grab dishes back.  Luckily, once again, everyone is too drunk to notice!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pan-Roasted Scallops with Morels and Asparagus Puree

Another food i'm not a fan of: scallops.  The first (and only) time before this that I had scallops, all I got was fishy and chewy.  I'm a big textural person when it comes to food, so chewy-fishy does NOTHING for me.  Given the above, I went into this dish a little (ok, a lot) skeptical.  And knowing my aversion to scallops, hubby was excited that he would get two.  But this was different.  It was... delicious!  In fact, when you balance difficulty/tastiness of a recipe, I think this comes out as being one of my very favorite French Laundry recipes yet!  (at least as far as possible entrees go)  It's also the perfect spring/early summer recipe - everything in this dish is seasonal, and seasonal pretty much at once.

This was pretty much three easy steps.  (and its a little picture-light... just because I think I was busy with other things, like making the shrimp)

Step 1: blanch the asparagus, reserving the tips, blend the stalks (with a smidge of veg stock, if I recall correctly), then push it through a tamis.

Step 2: This was the only irritating thing about this dish - I looked EVERYWHERE for fresh morels, couldn't find any, so I had to settle for dried.  And of course, the day after I made this, I walked into Whole Foods and saw fresh ones.  Grrr.  But I still soaked the mushrooms after dehydrating (thrice - my favorite law school word, i'm sure everyone in my section remembers it from 1L contracts!), then diced and tossed in with some crushed garlic and thyme sprigs and simmered.  After a couple of minutes, I removed the thyme and garlic cloves, and add diced shallots in, then added some brunoise and butter.  It was seriously the easiest "sauce" ever.  

Step 3:  warm some oil, then sear the scallops.  I wish I would have taken a picture of my scallops because they were BEAUTIFUL!  And cooked perfectly (the improvement over the first time I made scallops is... well... almost indescribable).

Ok, I lied, its really more like 4 steps if you count plating.  Step 4: put some asparagus puree on the bottom of the plate, top with a little mushroom mixture, then the scallop, then the (warmed and buttered) asparagus tips, and a few tomato diamonds.  Pretty!  And easy!  I think from start to finish, this would take about an hour.  Its a little small for a true entree, but if you bumped it up to two scallops, I think it would be great.  

Scallops - Point Loma Seafoods (dry-packed and freshly flown in the day before!).  I think getting dry-packed scallops makes a huge difference in the flavor and browning, since I had some "backup" scallops from Whole Foods that I made the next day for leftovers, and they weren't nearly as good.

Dried Morels - Specialty Produce.  I don't know if i've said anything about this place yet... but if so, i'm saying something again.  My new favorite produce place, even though I have to keep a parka in my car in order to shop there.  AND their website is the best ever, since you can find out the actual inventory online.  Its fantastic.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The April Hiatus

Whoa, things have been busy over here in project dinner party land.  In addition to the normal 'keeping the house in order' business, I have also had holidays and birthday dinners (including my own – I'm sure everyone would be shocked to discover I'm an aries), plus, as I've mentioned before, work has been crazy.  I've still found time for two consecutive weekend dinners, planning for a third, but blogging has fell by the wayside.  I'm sure I'll catch up in May, when we have non-cooking plans every Saturday night (and I won't have any weekday prep to keep me busy at night!