God girl grill gridiron

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tonight's Menu

Tonight, my dear wife and I celebrate our six months' wedding anniversary. Six months! So short and yet so long. We've been counting down to this particular anniversary for some time, because - colloquially - the folks who make it six months tend to make it for good.

Not that there's any doubt of that. As good a woman as I have somehow enticed into marrying me, I'm never letting her go. Too bad, fellas - you missed your chance and you missed it bad. With that in mind, tonight's menu, designed especially for her:

poached salmon crepes with brie-dill veloute
roasted butternut squash and golden beet
butter-sauteed broccolini

Earl Grey infused creme brulee
late-harvest gewurztraminer

This all required a good bit of prep, but it was well worth it. Plus, she was on call, leaving me plenty of time to ready up. So yesterday, I made my list, checked it twice, and headed out to Total Wine and More and the Fresh Market, returning with more good food than I'd like to admit, including a dozen Meyer lemons. I have a thing for winter citrus - clementines, Meyer lemons, and blood oranges all come out when it's cold, and together make up something like ninety percent of my yearly citrus purchase. I still remember studying biochem with a buddy of mine, when we made it our habit to eat everything bagels with salmon cream cheese and blood orange segments. Man, that was good.

The butternut squash and the golden beet were cubed and put into a plastic bag, then covered with olive oil leftover from making Meyer lemon confit to soak overnight. Butternut squash and golden beet work together beautifully, something I learned from my mother-in-law the last time the in-laws were here. The squash is sweet and buttery (duh) and the beets give just enough of that autumn rootiness. I made nine eight-inch crepes strictly by Julia Child's recipe in How To Cook. And, I made a classic vanilla bean creme brulee, but steeped two bags of Earl Grey in the milk/sugar/cream/vanilla mixture as it scalded, enough to give it a mild tea-and-bergamot flavor. The bottle of gewurztraminer and gewurztraminer dessert wine went into the fridge.

In addition, I made a spaghetti sauce jarful of Meyer lemon confit that I don't entirely know how I will use up. But that stuff keeps for months - we should be able to find something it'll be good on in that time, right? And I took four pounds of pork loin that had been languishing in the freezer and made slow-cooker carnitas. I haven't cooked, really cooked, in a long time and this was a good weekend for it. Everything went into the fridge to wait for dinner.

This evening, as my dear wife read a book, I got down to work. The squash and beet were drained of their oil and put in a 400 degree oven to roast, the crepes and salmon were allowed to come to room temperature, and I got to work on the sauce, a simple veloute with dill and brie. A veloute, one of the so-called mother sauces, begins with onion sauteed in butter. Once the onion is soft, flour is added in an amount equal to the butter, and stirred in to make a roux. Once the roux is smooth, my sauce called for equal parts white wine and chicken broth, then two cups of heavy cream. To this base, you add brie cheese, and then a large quantity of finely chopped dill. Granted, the fresh dill I had on hand was much milder than I'm used to, but I just added more than I'd anticipated, and the sauce had a delicious flavor. The rich, buttery cheese and sharp, grassy dill really came together nicely (even though the shallots got a bit too brown.)

The salmon was also a near-mistake. I wanted to poach it, so that the fish would stay moist and soft in our crepes. And poach it I did, in equal parts sauvignon blanc and water with a sprig or two of dill and a few slices of shallot. But what I didn't count on was my salmon being so thick that it didn't poach properly. I had to turn the whole fillet - awkardly. And then, even given considerable time, the interior basically just got warmed. I like my sushi, don't get me wrong, but my wife won't abide a fish that's raw. So, I pried the fish apart and put it into a baking dish in chunks, and finished it off in a 350 degree oven. After all, it's going into crepes, so who's going to care if it's flaked apart? Thankfully, the fish didn't dry out and took basically no time to cook thoroughly.

The broccolini, I just sauteed in butter and touched with a scant amount of cream when it was al dente. Broccolini is really an elegant vegetable, like broccoli's sweeter, milder cousin. Couldn't be more simple.

Needless to say, dinner was a real hit. I haven't been as proud of a meal as this one in a very long time. The fish was moist and tender, the sauce was - if I may say so - delicious, and the vegetables complemented each other as they did the meat. And that creme brulee, I think, is one of the best I have made. Something about the vanilla bean, the tea, and the bergamot... revelatory.

Here's the recipe for the sauce:

a tablespoon or slightly more of minced shallot
a tablespoon of butter
a tablespoon of flour, with a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper (white pepper if you're that concerned about color)
1/4 C each of chicken stock and dry white wine
1 1/2 to 2 C heavy whipping cream
4 oz. brie cheese, without rind
enough finely-chopped dill

Put a pan over medium to medium-high heat, and melt the butter. Add the shallot and sautee until soft and translucent. Even if they get a little golden-brown, that's not going to hurt things too much. Then, add the flour/salt/pepper mixture and immediately start stirring - this is the most important thing with making a roux, keep stirring. Once it's smooth (all you really need here) add in the chicken stock and wine, and whisk the hell out of it to keep it smooth. It also helps if you warm the liquids, which I forgot but was able to recover from. From then on, it's a matter of adding things one-by-one, first the cream, then the cheese, then the dill. As far as how much dill to add, I just kept chopping and adding until the herbs balanced out the richness of the cheese and shallots.

Once that's done, poach some salmon, fill a crepe and drape it with that rich, delicious sauce. Then just try not to slap yo' momma.

1 comment:

big House number one fan said...

lol funny stuff man i know what you mean lol