Our first holiday dinner was relatively simple, and as such, the main course had to be pretty good. My photos of the meal are horrific, as I was prepping the dishes and doing the final cooking and slicing and nearly forgot to take snapshots with my camera. I don’t like to take photos at the table when there are guests and dinner is being served, so you may just have to imagine some of the meal… First off, I completely forgot to take photos of the appetizer plate, made up of of a few slices of prosciutto di Parma, a little wedge of grana padano cheese (similar to parmiggiano reggiano) and about two tablespoons of a shaved fennel and orange salad. This was served with a Prosecco that was light and fruity and a nice alternative to a more classic champagne.
Activity in the kitchen was quite subdued, with most of the prepwork done way in advance, earlier in the day. It was mostly about assembling the plates and I left “guides” of the plating taped to the wall of the kitchen. I usually do one sample plate that is then replicated and served, the sample plate ending up with me, so I get the “oldest” or least hot dish as a result, to ensure that the guests get the freshest dishes possible.
After the appetizer plate, we served HUGE bowls of a deconstructed cioppino, a tomato based broth with lots and lots of already peeled seafood and a basil oil drizzled over it all. This is a HORRIBLE photo of the dish, but it tasted terrific. A guest brought FABULOUS fresh diwal (they were still alive) flown in from the South and we baked them and added them to the side of the soup course. I may do a separate post on the diwal. This was served with some crusty french bread (heated in the oven) and several of the guests asked for seconds of this course, and many wiped their bowls clean with the bread, always a good sign for me… The soup course was then followed by some slices of beef tenderloin (actually, the fillet mignon) which I had “dry-aged” a bit in the fridge, and a day before cooking, treated to a salt brine that was counter-intuitive but worked brilliantly. The meat was rubbed with salt and left exposed to the elements in a cold fridge for roughly 30 hours and the result was a VERY flavorful and succulent piece of steak… This was served with a rich bacon, port and shallot sauce, some slowly caramelized organic baby carrots, and mashed potatoes with extra virgin olive oil. A salad course was nixed when a poll resulted in groans that everyone had had more than enough to eat, and we hadn’t reached dessert yet!
With the slightly spicy soup we had a Clos Henri Pinot Noir from New Zealand, and with the main course, a wonderful Reserve de la Comtesse (Ch. Pichon Lalande) that was PERFECT with the beef course. Brought by one of the guests, the three bottles of Reserve de la Comtesse were savored by all who drank wine. A dozen guests (three or four of whom did not drink wine!) managed to finish 7 or 8 bottles of wine, so folks were generally happy… :)
Another horrific photo of the first dessert sent out… a poached bosc pear with mixed berry compote and some vanilla ice cream with lenguas de gato…
Some excellent mini-pecan tarts served with a rich cream, sent over before dinner by one of the guests. These had the perfect balance of sweetness and nuttiness and just the right size for a single serving…
And if that wasn’t enough, a terrific sans rival, also brought by a guest, to round off the dessert offerings. There was a chocolate cake as well, but I don’t think that even made it to the table that evening.
A box of Scharffen Berger dark chocolates brought by another guest were passed around during coffee and tea and folks lingered at the table to midnight as the candles burned down and their glow softened further.