As in other recent years, plans to go out to dine on New Year’s Eve meant that we couldn’t also do our gourmet cooking thing that day. With Jean working, alternate dates to do that were either this weekend, or the first weekend of January.
While I won’t get into details here, this Christmas required on-the-fly revamping of plans due to unexpected medical issues. Somehow, this persuaded me not to wait. So though we’d only been back from vacation about a day and a half, we did our gourmet dinner yesterday.
Instead of the usual appetizer / main dish / dessert, I decided to try a “small plate” or tapas approach to the meal. We made four appetizers, and two small-serving desserts. And in keeping with that—and also because Jean was on call (fortunately, that did not disrupt things)—we just did tasting portions of wine: one white, one red, one port.
Unlike the Christmas dinner, most of these were from recipe books (as opposed to online)—three of them from a cookbook published by the Cancer Research Society:
- Carpaccio of red tuna with citrus and avocado quenelle: The first item I selected, because I’ve been wanting to try it for ages. Fairly easy, really. You make a vinaigrette of citrus juice, olive oil, and ginger. You mash avocado with lime juice and sesame oil, then add some tabasco. Then you get sushi-grade tuna, slice it thinly, and serve it with the vinaigrette, avocado, orange pieces, and sesame seeds. (Salt and pepper are involved throughout, as well.)
- Spring rolls: A bit more involved, but still not too bad. You fry up some red pepper. Then you mix green onion, fresh mint, fresh coriander, watercress (my bean sprout substitute) with sesame oil and salt and pepper. Then you roll the pepper, some enoki mushrooms, and the mixture in hot-water softened rice paper. Jean did all the rolling.
- Edamame with Guérande salt: Easiest recipe ever. Boil frozen edamame 10 minutes, drain, and season with sea salt.
I had some boneless lamb loin on hand, and got the idea to try lamb skewers. That recipe I did find online, at Epicurious: Skewered lamb with almond-mint pesto. The pesto involved mixing almonds, Parmesan cheese, garlic, olive, fresh mint, and fresh basil in a food processor. The lamb was cut thin, threaded onto a skewer, brushed with olive oil and salt and pepper, then broiled two minutes per side.
So nothing was that hard, and we were fortunately able to find everything we didn’t already have on hand at our nearby Sobey’s that morning. Of course, things inevitably get a little crazy when you’re trying to finish up four recipes more or less at the same time, but we managed.
And we’re having a good year, because everything was really good. They’d all be “make again”’s (albeit probably not all again on the same day).
The wines were a Cave Spring 2011 Estate Riesling, easily available at your LCBO, and crazy good, really. The hit of the evening. The red was a 2004 (!) Argentina Cabernet Sauvignon. It was very good and smooth, but not as big and showy as we were expecting.
Desserts were the type you could make ahead, so I did.
The blueberry pavlova was a Gwyneth Paltrow recipe, from her My father’s daughter cookbook. The meringue is made the usual way: Egg whites, sugar, salt, vinegar, beating to stiff peaks, then baking a low temperature for an hour and drying out for another hour. Those are formed into a circle with an indent. In the indent goes some whipped cream with sugar and bluberries, then served with more blueberries on top.
Though it’s certainly not blueberry season, the organic Chilean ones I bought were very good in this rather lovely, light dessert.
The other item was from LCBO Food and Drink Holiday 2009, but it’s not available on their website. For this Festive Bark, you melt 70% chocolate in a bowl over boiling water, then stir in some cashews, candied ginger, apricots, dried cherries, and anise flavor. You spread that out, then you sprinkle sea salt on top, and let it chill.
It’s really hard to go wrong with those ingredients. That was delicious. And went nicely with Fonseca port.