Although we’ve cooked for a few friends since moving into our new house, all of these meals have been pretty easy affairs — the kind of things that don’t require more than a few hours of puttering around our new (dream) kitchen. This past weekend, however, my darlin’ wife S and I entertained the architect who designed our house, plus a slew of serious foodie friends. We knew that cooking up a simple stew and tossing together a salad, no matter how delicious, simply wasn’t going to cut it. The menu we put together required a day and a half of prep work — and one dish had to be done in stages over 3 days. As S put it during our frenzied preparations, “We’re finally breaking this puppy in!”
For our first course, we served a duo of scallops (pictured up top). Both scallops were brushed with a soy-butter glaze and grilled under a hot broiler for a minute or so. One was then topped with a Japanese herb dressing (the recipe for this comes from Jane Lawson’s awesome Yoshoku). The other I topped with a miso-beurre blanc and some avruga caviar.
The second course was a spicy uni pasta, inspired by a recipe from Kimiko Barber’s The Japanese Kitchen. Ms Barber’s recipe calls for soba. We used some homemade cappellini and also added some yuzu zest and minced shiso. We used a spicy bean paste made by a friend’s grandmother and some high quality nama sake, which we drank with the dish.
Our third course was a pork neck cannelloni. I had brought back from my last trip to Macau a whole Iberico pork neck. Using Justin Quek’s recipe, I made some confit of pork neck. This I diced into a stuffing with some sauteed baby portobello mushrooms, onions, chestnuts and some fresh herbs. We rolled this in sheets of homemade pasta, ladled a healthy portion of a saffron cream sauce (that was flavored with some reduced apple juice) over it, and baked the cannelloni at 180 Degrees Celsius for 25 minutes. One of our guests surprised us with a white truffle, which was perfect. We shaved that sucker over the pork neck cannelloni to create a magnificently decadent dish.
The main course was a butter-poached wagyu tenderloin served with grilled baby asparagus, salt-baked potatoes and a pinot noir reduction and a bearnaise sauce. This entire composition comes from Michael Mina’s self-titled cookbook. While the one time I have met Mina in person and tasted his food, I was not impressed, I have to say that I love his cookbook. It has some wonderful ideas and techniques. This dish is simple, beautiful and especially ironic because one of our guests (a restaurateur) had commented that when industry professionals eat at friends’ houses, often what they crave most is a simple steak and potatoes. Well, that’s what we gave him, but with a bit of a twist. The process of slow-poaching beef in herb-enhanced clarified butter is so cool. Hard to perfect (you have to keep your butter at between 135-140 degrees F or it will overcook) but the result is a gorgeously tender piece of meat. S also really loved making the rock-salt baked potatoes.
Our final course was a lemon meringue ice box cake created by a dessert chef named Heather Ho (who sadly passed away during 9/11 – she was the head pastry chef at Windows on the World). The recipe can be found in the Boulevard cookbook. While simple to look at, this baby took several days to make. And while yummy, I am not sure if I can convince S to prepare this again.