My friends and I (four to six of us) get together every four to six weeks for dinner. Since Im the most experienced cook, Im head chef and everyone else pitches in. When we have the dinners at others homes, the menus are generally off-the-cuff, but when the dinner is at my pad, I spend more time planning a more interesting meal.
Dinner at my place is the case this upcoming February 2. We all thought it would be fun to celebrate the unique date 02/02/02 (won't see it again for another century). After mulling over how best to do this, I felt it would be interesting to do a trio of twosomes. (Three 2s. Get it?)
Course #1: SOUP & SALAD
Egg Drop Soup with Ginger-Braised Chicken and
Celery Root Salad with Walnut Dressing
Course #2: MEAT & POTATOES
Braised Beef Short Ribs and
with Parslied Shallots and Red Wine Jus
Course #3: TEA & CAKE
Tieguanyin and 16-layer Chocolate-Fudge Cake (The 16 will be cleverly renamed 2-to-the-fourth. Geeky, isnt it?)
Aside from sharing my menu, I also have a question for all you winehounds out there, both budding and expert: What to drink? I consider myself a wine novice. As enthusiastic as I am about wine, my brain invariably goes numb when faced with wine choices.
Beverage for dessert has been happily ordained: a fragrant Tieguanyin. I was thinking Port or an appropriate liqueur initially, but since Ill be serving wine with hors duvres prior to the meal, and wine throughout the meal, I felt something cleansing would be better.
By the way, Tieguanyin, which is an oolong tea, goes very well with chocolate. I did a taste test last night. A cake rich with butter and eggs, and dressed with a Scharffen Berger-based glaze was paired against three different black teas and the one oolong. (I didnt spend time making the 16-layer cake; I simply baked it as 13x9 and poured the glaze over it.) A Yunnan black tea came very close, but Tieguanyin was a winner with its fragrance, its smooth blend with the chocolate, and its mellow finish.
The beef short ribs will be seared over oil, then braised for three to four hours in the oven. The braising liquid will be made from onions, leeks, garlic, jalapenos, red wine (the same or lesser of that which will be drunk, whatever it is), horseradish, rosemary, and chicken stock. The potatoes will be the ever-creamy Yukon Gold, whipped with butter, milk, and horseradish. The shallots will be oven-roasted in olive oil, then tossed with parsley, salt, and pepper. The Red Wine Jus is a reduction of Burgundy and Port, with a little apple, a little orange peel, and the standard French mirepoix.
So, what to drink? The Red Wine Jus seems like the thing to follow: Burgundy. In fact, Im tempted to break into the batch of 90 Burgundy I received from my father some years ago. But label me a non-conformist as I consider alternatives. Cabernet? Malbec? Syrah? (Not Merlot, please. I dont dislike it; I guess Im just bored with it.) Any thoughts? Anything anyone tried recently that feels like a good pairing?
I have this excellent chicken stock I made earlier this month: Several pounds of chicken wings, thighs, and legs; thick slices from a big-ole knob of ginger; chunks from half a hefty winter melon; and a decent handful of dried porcini. Come soup time, Ill use this stock to braise chicken thighs with more ginger and some lemon thyme (or lemon zest and thyme, depending on what the market has). After the thighs are sliced and placed into the soup bowls, a beaten egg or two will be swirled into the hot broth and the finished soup will be divided amongst the bowls. Chopped scallions finish each bowl.
Mighty tasty celery root have been invading my local farmers market. I plan to make a fine julienne of celery root and serve raw, topped with a tangy dressing made from finely chopped toasted walnuts, some chopped raisins, rice vinegar, neutral oil (havent decided which), and salt and pepper.
The best thing I can come up with for the Soup & Salad course is a blanc de blanc Champagne or similar local sparkling wine. Its texture and effervescence will pair well with both soup and salad, I think. I didnt put much more thought into this pairing because, at the time, I was just plain lazy. (Bubbles for everyoneeasy answer!) But thoughts and suggestions for this would be appreciated, nonetheless.
Since Ive already written as much as I have, I may as well mention the hors duvres: focaccia simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and sesame seeds; a wedge of good Parmesan, a wedge of ripe Brie; this wonderful fig spread I found at Whole Foods (goes very well with the Brie on bread); garlic cloves poached in oil with thyme until soft, sweet, nutty, and fragrant (Hey! Garlic oil!); and Apician-style spiced dates (dates stuff with whole toasted almonds; braised in Beaujolais spiked with honey, pepper, cloves, orange zest, allspice, cinnamon, and bay leaf; lightly salted and mascarpone on the side). My immediate wine choices are the Beaujolais and a Sauvignon Blanc.
Any and all suggestions are welcome and appreciated, as is your patience in reading this long post. My apologies up-front for not being able to invite all you fine folks out there to join us. Its not that I dont want to, but the apartment manager would be most displeased. However, Ill let you know how it turns out, and if anyone wants the recipes, let me know and Ill send you copies and/or post them here.
Thanks in advance!