WFD: A four course feast.

July 21, 2007


OK.. I should first talk about the lack of photos.. I know, a four course feast. If there is any blog entry so far that deserves a bunch of photos it is this one. Suffer. There is only one! Drake (son) has been crazy sick the last day, and the only reason I cooked this dinner we had planned was because I had bought all the ingredients the day before, and didn’t want a bunch to go to waste (especially the fish). A sick son, and hungry guests means a lack of photos. This is time to use your imagination people!! I will describe things the best I can…….

So Danika’s brother, and his bird (English slang for girlfriend.. – who said this blog isn’t educational!) have come to stay for a few days. We thought it might be nice to cook for them, and Danika’s parents, who don’t live too far away. But what to cook. I am not sure if anyone has problems eating fish (there are some crazy people out there that don’t like fish so I heard) that is coming to dinner, so I have to be careful. Most likely a white fish would be best bet. Oh, and why fish? Well, it is healthy for a start, and we like to cook fish when Danika’s parents come over, since they don’t eat much of it.

Without further a do.. onto the food!

1st Course: Prosciutto, Washington cherries cooked in port, frisee

This is something I was tarting around with a couple of days ago. A sexy little nibble to start the meal. Just a bite, nothing more. It is a bugger that I didn’t photograph the test one from a couple of days ago – I used better Parma ham for that, and the prosciutto tube stood up a lot better. Anyhow. So. You wrap the prosciutto into a tube, and bung it in the oven to crispen slightly. This helps keep its form, and provides a good textural balance to the soft cherries. Meanwhile, the cherries are cut in half, and the stones removed. This are popped in a small pan with some port, and held at a fast boil. When the cherries have softened slightly, remove them, and boil down the port a little further to make the sauce. No Port? No worries, I reckon red wine with a little sugar would most likely work out OK.

A few of these cherry halves are stuffed into the prosciutto tube, along with some chopped frisee. A few dots of the sauce are put around, a tiny amount is spooned on top of the cherries. One presentation that was also interesting was Danika’s, using up the last of the cherries.. We had a prosciutto tube that had split it’s side, and on that side Danika put cherries cascading out the side. Looked darn decent, and as a plus point, there was more cherries!

This turned out fabulous, even if I do say so myself. The textures balanced perfectly, along with the tastes – salty prosciutto, sweet cherries, and slightly bitter frisee.

2nd Course: Roasted beet and Pear salad

This is pretty similar to the mixture under the scallop recipe I have on this site – http://mattikaarts.com/blog/?p=23

Started with some red and yellow beets, simply roasted. These are arranged on a plate with some sliced pear. Top this with a little parsley, pine nuts and a good parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano). This is finished with some white truffle oil. A really tasty salad, that comes together super fast after roasting the beets. The truffle oil accentuates the earthiness of the beets. The whole thing is nicely balanced, and very tasty.

3rd Course: Pan Seared Ling Cod, Fennel Onion confit, olive tapenade

This one comes almost straight from the pages of Thomas Keller’s excellent book, Bouchon. I have mentioned his book on this site before, just to recap – it is a great book, full of decent recipes. Some can take a bloody age to prepare if you don’t have the basic building blocks already made though. Never had anything bad from it, and everything I have cooked has come out as described in his book. There is some pretty cheesy writing in there though, when he is describing “the importance of” things.

Fennel and Onion is sliced, and put in a pot with some water and butter that has melted. Added to this is a bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, bay and black peppercorns. This cooks really slowly under a parchment lid for a couple of hours, until soft, but not breaking apart. Stir in some chopped olives and parsley just before serving.

The tapenade is a mix of chopped olives (he says nicose, but they are hard to find, and expensive, so I tend to use Kalamata), parsley, dijon mustard, chopped capers, and a few other things. I tend to leave out the anchovies, I am the only one at this dinner that likes them. Whilst the tapenade I am sure wouldn’t taste too much like them, it is safer to leave them out.

In his book this recipe is for use with skate wings. They can be a little tricky to find, but a few places around Seattle has them. I love skate, but I have to remember the people I am cooking for.. A couple aren’t too fish crazy, so I wanted to keep it to something they knew. The idea of scraping fish of cartilage wouldn’t work too well for them either. This is a pretty mellow dish, so I didn’t want to use a strongly flavored fish, so most of the oily ones are out. It was a toss up between this and halibut. Both looked good at the market, but I cook halibut quite a bit for Danika’s parents, so I wanted something different. Oh, and ling cod is half the price of halibut! Ling cod isn’t actually a true cod, but a greenling. They can be found up and down the west coast of the US. A good meaty flesh, that isn’t strongly flavored. Cooks well sauteed and roasted. 

A circle of the fennel onion confit is carefully placed in the middle of the plate, with the fish going straight on top. I always try to trim fillets neatly, so that the presentation is great, and there is no really thin belly flap that always overcooks. Around the edge is few dots and drissles of the tapenade. Absolutely delicious. Nice one Keller!

4th Course: Plum Bruschetta

I found some really ripe organic plums at the market, and thought I would make this fantastic recipe from the lovely duo at River Cafe in London. This one comes straight out their book Italian Two Easy, which I am just cooking a ton from at the moment.

The plums are halved, and the stone removed. These are put in a heavy baking dish that has been rubbed with butter. Over the top is sprinkled some sugar that has a chopped vanilla pod in. This goes in the oven for 15 minutes. Slice up some good white bread, and butter it. Sprinkle some more of this vanilla sugar over the bread. Yank the plums out of the oven. By now the purple/red juices from the plums are all over the bottom of the pan, and the smell of plums and vanilla fills the air. This is one of the fantastic things about roasting. The oven door is shut, and you cannot smell that much of what is cooking.. but when you open up the oven door, darn it just smells fantastic. Cooking should be a very tactile experience, and this sure fits the bill. All senses are used. So, the bread gets put under the plums, and back in the oven it goes for another 15.

What comes out is bread that is slightly crisp on the outside, some soft plums, and heady aroma of vanilla, and the center of the bread slices soaked through in plum juice. Really bloody simple, and ever so tasty. I love bread in deserts. I have a great summer pudding recipe that I am going to be putting into the Wrightfood cookbook, which has bread as the basis, and just tastes fantastic too.

The meal turned out great. Lots of fresh local produce, and some great wine. Towards the evening Drake was starting to feel better, the wine bottles were empty, and the plates were all coming back clean. Always a good sign. Doing four courses like this worked out great too. The beets could be roasted first, along with putting on the confit. The rest came together really fast, so there wasn’t a huge delay between courses (15 minutes or so, about 30 for the desert). Perhaps the best thing though, it allows people to drink more wine, so come the end, they will eat anything and think it is brilliant!


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