Dinner 10-22-2011

After what feels like a long break (from the blog, not cooking), I'm back.  You might consider this a preview of the kind of thing I would try to do in the underground restaurant.  We had some people over for dinner last night.  For me this means an opportunity to put what I've been learning to good use.   Each dish really stood on its own.  I think each is visually attractive, and interesting to eat (like cracking through the prosciutto covering on the 1st dish).  That said, what I'm most proud of is that the overall progression of the menu felt coherent.

Poached egg, reduction of chicken stock, dijon mustard, roasted sunchokes, frisee, toasted sunflower seeds, dehydrated prosciutto di parma, cayenne pepper.

This is a fun one to eat. The diner has to crack through the crispy prosciutto to get to the dish, which is fun and dynamic. The crispness also adds a nice dynamic to what is a rich soupy dish with toasty notes, sweetness from the carmelization of the sunchokes, while still remaining earthy in nature. I only heard groans of pleasure from this one.

Pan-seared scallops with crushed fennel seeds, puree of peaches infused with cream, arugla leaf, and mint leaves.

I wanted something simple, not crowded with flavors because these scallops are fresh and cooked to a creamy medium-rare. The fennel really highlights the sweetness of the scallop here and the bitter arugala adds a nice contrast. The peach cream added a sweetly accented richness. A lesson in allowing the central ingredient to really shine.

Zucchini and yellow squash julienne, then tenderized for 20 minutes in salt. Accented with a lemon-lime soaked shallot (they turn a beautiful pink color in the presence of acid), and toasted almonds.

This dish served as a palate cleanser with earthy and sweet/sour notes. The texture of the zucchini and squash is like an al dente pasta. Crunch added with toasted almonds. A visually pleasing and tasty palate cleanser.

Candied roasted hazelnuts, smoked provolone, candied lemon zest, beer gel sheet, pink peppercorns.

The flavors stand individually and work in concert in this one. The beer I used was a Hoegaarden white ale, which has a subtle citrus note accented with the lemon zest. The candied hazelnuts had extra crunch due to their candy shell and were also salted, adding another nice contrast. Supported by smoky provolone. The pink peppercorns really did wonders to highlight the fruity aspects of this dish.

There's also the striking visual element here. I was happy with my efforts on this dish, but I see room for improvement.

Pan seared filet mignon, red wine reduction with reduction of beef stock, black mission figs, braised bok choy.

Tender beef, sweet tender fig = heaven. The bok choy was juicy and still had some crunch. The sauce is rich while retaining the nice subtleties of the bordeaux wine I used. Can't go wrong with this cut of meat, I think....unless you overcook it, which I didn't, so....there.

For dessert, I made eclairs, which I've attempted to make only once before. This was my best effort yet. The eclair shells were just about right hollow, dry, mostly crack-free, and relatively straight and even. The fondant was easy to make, but some practice is needed to get it to the right consistency with water/glucose when it is melted down. Also, the glazing needs more practice. Definitely a reject by professional standards, but I'm happy with it overall. A great achievement for at home, I think.

The eclairs are filled with an almond flavored pastry cream and a coffee flavored pastry cream. Choux and pastry cream recipes generously provided by Chef Francisco Migoya (www.thequenelle.com).

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