Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The First Big Dinner Trial Run

I'm back after a long absence that included 3 law school finals, enough caffiene to kill an elephant, a Mad Men party, and a jump into Lake Michigan on New Year's Day.  On Saturday, I'm cooking a 6 course dinner for 14 people in Elmhurst, so I needed to begin practicing.  The first two courses that I tested were 1. Flavors of Frosty the Snowman and 2. Venison (steak in the trial run), charcoal, beets, pomegranate.  Frosty had too much tobacco flavor so next time I will use less of that and probably add in a bit of sugar to round out the harshness of the tobacco.  The charcoal was very sand-like and unpleasant to eat texture-wise, so I'll have to come up with a solution for that.  I've been thinking about fireplace soot or maybe just scrapping it all together and going with cocao powder.  I think I spend an unusual amount of time worrying if I'm going to poison myself with something that I cook.  Is that normal for people?

Here were the recipes for the dishes I practiced:

Flavors of Frosty
Corn Ice Cream
1.5 cups corn kernels
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1 tbsp sugar
4 egg yolks, beaten and in a separate bowl
1 tbsp butter
kosher salt

1.  In a medium sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Once melted and hot, add corn kernels, a pinch of salt and a little pepper
2.  Toss corn around in the butter and saute for 3-4 minutes until corn is hot and cooked through.
3.  Pour in the milk and cream, and add the sugar.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Lower  heat to low.
4.  Pour about 1/3 of the cream mixture into the egg yolks and whisk for a minute to temper the eggs
5.  Add the egg mixture back to the sauce pan and stir with a wooden spoon until thickened to the point that you can draw a line on the back of the spoon with your finger.  About 3-4 minutes.
6.  Pour cream into a cooled metal bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours until the cream is the texture of custard.
7.  Pour custard into an ice cream machine and churn until it looks like ice cream.  Scrape the ice cream into a bowl and put the bowl in the freezer for 8 hours to harden and let the flavors come together.

Tobacco Cream
2 grams tobacco from a cigar
1 cup cream
1 cup milk

1.  Put all ingredients together in a sauce pan
2.  Bring to a boil over medium heat
3.  Remove from heat and cover.  Let tobacco steep for about an hour.
4.  Strain the tobacco out and keep warm

To assemble:  Spoon some ice cream into the bottom of a bowl.  Heat the tobacco cream (I'd use less tobacco next time, but its up to you) until hot.  Top the ice cream with shredded carrots (I'm going to attempt to make a carrot top hat out of caramel when I actually serve it).  Pour the hot tobacco cream over the top of it so the ice cream begins to melt, just like Frosty the Snowman.

Steak, Charcoal, Beets, Pomegranate
2 steaks, fat trimmed
some bamboo charcoal, ground to powder in a spice grinder (I'd use something else since this was sandy)
3 beets, juiced, 1/2 cup of the juice in 2 separate cups
3 beets, quartered
1 cup pomegranate juice
beef stock
red wine vinegar
8 tbsp butter
lemon juice
canola oil

1.  Salt and pepper each steak.  Heat canola oil over high heat.  Add each steak for 1 minute on each side, just to caramelize, then set them aside.
2.  Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup of beet juice over medium heat and reduce until it is 2-3 tbsp.  Add a few drops of red wine vinegar, a few drops of lemon juice, and whisk in 3 tbsp butter.  Keep warm and reserve.
3.  Put the pomegranate juice in another sauce pan and heat over medium heat.  Pour in 1/4 cup of beef stock and about 1/2 tbsp sugar.  Bring to a boil and reduce to medium-low.  Reduce pomegranate juice mixture by 1/2.  Whisk in 5 tbsp butter one piece at a time.  Keep warm and reserved.
4.  For the beet pudding, put the other 1/2 cup of beet juice in a blender.  Turn on low and sprinkle in about a tbsp of sugar.  Turn blender up to high and sprinkle in some Ultra Tex 3 until it is the desired consistency.
5.  While all of this is going on, preheat oven to 450.  Salt and pepper beet quarters, and put them in the oven for 15 minutes until cooked through.
6.  Coat all sides of the beef in the charcoal powder (or whatever you are using).  Remove the beets from the oven and replace with the charcoal beef for about 5 minutes until medium-rare.

To assemble:  Place beef in center of plate.  Place a spoon of beet juice in the front and streak across the plate with a paint brush.  Place a dollop of beet pudding in one of the corners.  Put the roasted beet quarters on one side of the meat.  Spoon a line of pomegranate reduction across the plate.

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