So what does everyone do when you have serious food lovers coming over for dinner? I was faced with this dilemma over the weekend when I hosted a talented cook and food lover who is also a well-known contributor to this board. I went back and forth on whether I should go for a conservative meal and prepare dishes I know I have mastered, go the confrontational Iron Chef approach with a pure Zuni meal [not so subtle hint ;) ], or just run for cover and prepare something this hound wont have any experience to judge- say the coastal cuisine of Mozambique. In the end I decided to just overwhelm with volume and serve a variety of dishes I have been contemplating trying even if they dont necessarily go together.
I started by making a few cocktails- a light buzz being worth an extra half star in the food ratings in my experience. Cocktails were Corpse Reviver #2 and Aviations.
75oz lillet blanc
75 oz lemon juice
a few drops of absinthe sub (Herbsaint)
5oz lemon juice
To go with the cocktails I served a few snacks: Cuquillo olives marinated w/ olive oil, orange, cascabel and bay, toasted almonds with pimenton, and a French salami. I also opened a nice bottle of Prosecco knowing that gin would seriously lower the probability of getting all of my planned courses to the table.
The first course was Corn and Green Garlic Soup with Crab and Chives. The corn soup was based on a simple corn/veg. stock with just a touch of cream for richness. For a little dinner showmanship I served the crab in a bowl with some sautéed corn and then poured the soup from a pitcher tableside.
Course 2 was Olive Oil Coddled Pork Crostini with Fennel Pickles and Arugula. The pork recipe comes from Wolferts Slow Med book. It is basically cooked like a confit but using olive oil instead of pork fat. I first spread a few garlic cloves that had also cooked with the pork on the crostini and then spread the shredded pork over that. The fennel pickles were made following the recipe in Babbo and provided a acid counterpoint to the richness of the pork. The arugula was extremely fresh and simply dressed with taggiasca olive oil and meyer lemon juice.
The main course was an attempt to create a fish course designed to pair with red wine; Sea Bass with Braised Beef Shoulder Raviolo, King Oyster Mushrooms and Red Wine Reduction.
As a transition between the savory courses and dessert I decided to go with a composed cheese course. I went with San Joaquin Gold cheese (http://shop.fiscalinicheese.com/page.php) and paired it with dried mission figs in red wine honey syrup, walnuts and cracked pepper. The figs are from a recipe in the Zuni book.
Dessert was an Apple Far. This is a traditional recipe from Brittany that utilizes leftover crepe batter to make a cake. Easy, and not too sweet which is nice after a lot of food. The texture is somewhat similar to the better-known clafoutis. This comes out of the oven nicely souffled but then collapses into a nice rustic looking dessert.
Paired with the food were an Oregon Pinot and a late harvest zinfandel provided by my guests. There was also a fairly awful chocolate experience but I have luckily been able to black out the trauma it caused.
And a special thanks to this hound for providing needed extra photos!