Some years ago, DH and I started cooking a gourmet dinner on New Year’s Eve — yes, just for the two of us. (Everyone seems to find that odd, but believe me, when your friends all start having babies… You start doing a lot of things just the two of you!)
Last year, that dinner didn’t quite land on New Year’s Eve itself, and this year it was even later. DH had call duty over New Year’s weekend, so we picked the weekend after for our dinner. That way, there could be wine.
First course: Mushroom and cappuccino velouté
Source: The ever-cheery sounding Cooking with Foods That Fight Cancer
Wine: Stoneleigh 2006 Pinot Noir (New Zealand)
Certainly the healthiest item of the meal, the soup was also very easy to make: Sauté mushrooms, garlic, and shallots in olive oil, add good-quality chicken stock and let simmer, add fresh basil and blend, season with sesame, then froth milk and put on top. We don’t have a proper “milk frother”, though, so that wasn’t as foamy as it might have been.
But since shitake mushrooms are delicious, the soup was delicious. The wine was also very nice, living up to its reputation as a really good Pinot Noir for less than $20 a bottle. Fruity but subtle, complementing the earthiness of the mushrooms nicely.
Second course: Squash Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce
Wine: Chateau des Charmes St. David’s Bench Chardonnay (Ontario)
I’d been wanting to try making ravioli for a while, and found these two LCBO recipes on hand. What we made was a bit of a combination of both.
I had my doubt about the thing when the roasted squash ended up a bit overcooked, with burnt edges; was the whole thing going to end up tasting charcoal-y? Plus, one squash didn’t seem to provide quite enough material, so we supplemented with can pumpkin.
Actually stuffing the things, which I had been dreading, was actually much easier than expected. And amazingly (to me), almost none came apart in cooking, and the won tons, which seems so doughy when raw, turned very light after cooking.
The butter sauce was also cause for some concern enroute. (And can I say, that was a shocking amount of butter! Not how I usually cook!) It was supposed to get light brown; it kind of went beyond that, to a darker colour. Was it going to taste all charcoal-y?
But everything was delicious. No charcoal accents at all. And the detail of crisping the sage leaves in olive oil added a really cool texture to the whole thing.
The wine, recommended by LCBO, did match the food very nicely. It took on a completely different, fuller character, compared with drinking it alone.
Main course: Macademia-Crusted Lamb with Celery Root-Fennel Mash and Coconut Mango Chutney
Source: LCBO again, their Holiday 2004 issue. (Oddly, none of these recipes seem to be on the website.)
Wine: Clos des Brusquières 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape (France)
This recipe was a last-minute substitution when we weren’t able to get our hands on sushi-grade tuna. The idea was accompanying honey-encrusted French-cut lamb chops with a fairly subtle-flavored mash and a very strongly flavored chutney.
None of this was hard to make, but it did take a while. DH handled the mash, which involved a couple of vegetables we don’t cook with very often: the ugly celery root and a fennel bulb (with some other flavorings, like garlic and sea salt). The result was very pleasant-tasting.
The chutney was all strong flavors: sugar, vinegar, chili, ginger, mango, cinnamon, coconut, mint, raisins, lime. It seemed like such a hodge-podge, and the color ended up so odd (brownish), that I was actually surprised how good it tasted!
The main event lamb, by comparison, was a master of simplicity. And it all worked together with the wine, which was very nice, as those tend to be. (And yes, we were feeling a little tipsy at this point, though by no means getting close to finishing any of the bottles!)
Dessert: Pumpkin-Wild Blueberry Pie
Source: Michael Stadtlander’s The Heaven on Earth Project
Wine: Cave Spring’s 2006 Late Harvest Riesling (Ontario)
Michael Stadtlander is considered one of the best chefs in the world. He runs a restaurant out of his own home. It’s extremely difficult to get reservations there now, but many years, we were able to. (We just had to book four months in advance. Seriously.) And it was, indeed, a sublime experience.
We bought his book a few months ago and — guess what? — a lot of the recipes are really hard to make. But this pie was approachable, and this seemed a good time to try.
I didn’t compromise on it too much. I used can pumpkin instead of cooking my own, and the blueberry glaze seemed to require the sacrifice of too many delicious wild blueberries to too little input on the pie. But I did follow pastry recipe, and was pleased how easy it was to mix. Rolling got a bit sticky (the crust had sugar and vanilla in it), but adding flour made that work. No amounts were given for the various spices in the pumpkin pie, so I just threw in what seemed like a reasonable amount of each.
So if not entire Statlander-esque in the end, it still turned out very good. Pumpkin and wild blueberry (frozen after we bought them up North this summer) is a good combination. And the Riesling had about the right amount of sweetness to match.
Pie was even better the next day when it had had a chance to chill longer.