Sunday, December 11, 2005

Cooking for Company

I love every aspect about creating a meal. Browsing through cookbooks to plan the menu, shopping for ingredients, the mise en place, the actual cooking, plating and eating - it's a ritual that makes me happy on a daily basis. And when cooking for company, the exact same process, albeit on a different scale, does it for me. However, given my self-acknowledged impulse towards excess, I've wisely granted W the powers of veto whenever the feeding involves more than the two of us - I'll present him with several contending recipes for each course, he makes the final cut, as was the case with the menu when we hosted dinner for friends (two couples) yesterday.

Sea Urchin Custard with Velouté of Tiger Prawn

This is an adaptation of an Alain Ducasse and Didier Eléna recipe that's one of our favourite ways with sea urchin roe, from Jeffrey Steingarten's It Must've Been Something I Ate. If you're not a fan of sea urchin, this may well be the recipe to change your mind.

Black & White Truffle Soup, Truffled Parmesan Shortbread

This fabulous number, which Rick Tramonto calls his "Totally Insane Black and White Truffle Soup" in his cookbook Tru, is heart-stoppingly extravagant with the prized fungi, and all the better for it. The accompanying savoury shortbread is based on a faithful standby from Sue Lawrence's Book of Baking, in party dress of course - I stirred a heaping dollop of Tetsuya's Black Truffle Salsa into the dough before shaping and baking.

Fresh Egg Tagliatelle with Mentaiko

A Japanese-Western pasta dish W and I adore, lavishly flavoured with salted and spiced cod roe. Spaghetti is typically used, although we've never had two versions that tasted alike - it's one of those dishes that embraces liberal interpretation. Aside from insisting on homemade egg noodles, W also prefers it thus: Snippets of streaky bacon slowly crisped in a good lump of butter then set aside, a pile of thinly sliced onions cooked in the same highly flavoured fat till soft and caramelised, a quick deglazing with a tiny splash of mirin before the addition of chubby fingers of buna shimeji mushrooms - cooked just, to retain their meaty texture. Only after the freshly boiled pasta is drained and tossed in the pan, are the bacon, mentaiko paste (the fleshy pink roe, scraped from its sacs, is mashed with more butter), and finely sliced negi added. W's version, as I like to think of it, is sublime in a homespun soul food kind of fashion. But there are as many ways with mentaiko pasta as there are cooks; as if you haven't already, see Chubby Hubby's exquisitely elegant (not to mention wonderfully delicious) signature dish here.

Stracotto of Beef Shin & Porcini, Roasted Sage & Onion Polenta

Meat marinated and braised in a big, muscular Barolo till meltingly fall apart, loosely following the principles of the exemplary method as outlined in Paul Bertolli's Cooking By Hand. The resulting sugo, the pot liquor if you will, is lent greater body thanks to the pork trotter that goes into the braising vessel right from the beginning. The usual aromatic suspects (onion, carrot, celery, garlic, rosemary et al) aside, vincotto and dried porcini add further depth and savour. As for the polenta, I like Judy Rodgers' technique as set forth in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, an unusual one which I've gushed about before - I've yet to encounter another that results in as perfectly fluffy a texture.

Chocolate Pannacotta, Manjari and Macadamia Toffee Crunch, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

An unabashedly over-the-top composed dessert for the decidedly sweet-toothed (funnily enough, all the menfolk present at dinner) from the Boulevard cookbook by Nancy Oakes and Pamela Mazzola. The chocolate panna cotta is set atop an ultra-rich brownie bottom, and tastes like a grown-up's fudgesicle, while the Valrhona Manjari chocolate and macadamia nut toffee crunch, as sophisticated as a candy bar gets. A delicate chocolate lace tuile affords crisp, brittle contrast. I had some salted caramel sauce handy in the fridge so I used that instead of the hot fudge sauce called for. Vanilla bean ice cream, freshly churned earlier in the day, provides a cool respite from all that bittersweet intensity.

34 Comments:

Blogger eatzycath said...

oh my, that is first class restaurant standard.... dear, dear J, how does one get an invitation to your dining room???? :)

12:07 am, December 12, 2005  
Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

(speechless)

2:31 am, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Nic said...

That spread is incredibly mouthwatering, J. I think that soup would be my favorite course.

2:32 am, December 12, 2005  
Anonymous Tea said...

I was drooling over my keyboard as I read your post. What decadent and delicious looking dishes! I especially like the lovely plated dessert. Magnifico! ^_^

4:48 am, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Reid said...

Hi J,

Simply amazing! I'm sure this meal took forever to prepare and I'm sure that your guests were quite happy and satisfied. Everything looks so fabulous...as usual.

6:50 am, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Rachael said...

SPEECHLESS.

You know food stylists make $1100 a day doing this. What are you waiting for????

MY GOODNESS. You are a talented, talented woman. My hat is off to you indeed.

And I thought my cauliflower soup with truffled cheese was special. Ouch!

9:44 am, December 12, 2005  
Blogger fooDcrazEE said...

wow! This is definitely a high class restaurant stuff. The way you describe them and the way it was presented....even my chef was impressed.

Good work there J........like cath says, how do we get invites ? chuckle

10:26 am, December 12, 2005  
Blogger slurp! said...

(...speechless...)
the $$$ IGREDIENTS $$$ alone already bowl me over.

2:15 pm, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Amy said...

There's so much I could say but I will leave it at this:

Can I come to dinner at your house?

2:34 pm, December 12, 2005  
Anonymous paz said...

With a menu like this, I think it's safe to say that an enjoyable dinner was had by all. What an enjoyable sounding meal!

Best,
Paz

3:37 pm, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Clare Eats said...

What a fabulous meal, you have blown me over once again J.

4:35 pm, December 12, 2005  
Anonymous keiko said...

Hi Joycelyn - how wonderful to share a meal like this with friends... Absolutely gorgeous! I hope you are enjoying the festive season, take care.

8:09 pm, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Ruth said...

Every time I visit your site, I think you can't do any better - then you do!!!

Awesome, as expected.

Thanks for sharing

9:55 pm, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Good job J! Everything looks delicious. Especially the plated desserts!
I'm just imagining the symphony of tastes and textures.
Hmmmmmmmmm...

10:02 pm, December 12, 2005  
Blogger sailu said...

First time visiting your blog J,I am speechless...everything,absolutely everything is perfect.10/10
Your pictures are awesome....excellent!

10:30 pm, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Chubby Hubby said...

Great post. That dessert looks fabulous (have any extra?)! How long did it take you to make the whole thing?

10:58 pm, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Melissa CookingDiva said...

The quality of your photos is excellent, and the food, hmmm...the food looks delicious! Great job :)
Happy Holidays from Panama!

11:04 pm, December 12, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi eatzycath, for you, anytime ;) i only worry about living up to your stringent standards...

hi eatdrinknbmerry, (blush)

hi nic, why thank you! the soup is one of w's faves too. the original tramonto garnish was a parmesan crisp, but i thought a finger of buttery cheese shortbread would work too, plus it's a better 'dipper'...

hi tea, thanks! glad to see you like the looks of dessert...given that most of us at dinner really love chocolate, i wanted to make something a little more special...

hi reid, thanks for your sweet words. let's just say i rolled into bed pretty tired, not that i mind in the least...

hi rachael, you're far too kind, but thank you very much! and it IS special (your lovely soup, i mean)...

hi foodcrazee, thanks, glad you approve of what you see!

hi slurp, the credit card took quite a beating but i try not to think about such things when i shop...it's bad karma

hi amy, if you ever come visit these parts, sure...in exchange for a batch of your lemon marmalade ;)

hi paz, thanks!i like to think everybody left feeling pretty sated...

hi clare, good to see you're well and up and about! thanks for your kind words

hi keiko, thanks! hope you are enjoying the festive feasting too...

hi ruth, thanks for being so positive, as always!

hi nicholas, thanks! according to the boulevard book, the dessert is about a play in different textures; i am inclined to agree...

hi sailu, you're much too kind. thanks for visiting, and for being so encouraging

hi c.h., thanks! sadly, no extras (had exactly 8 molds for the pannacotta; w&i ate the 2 extra the night before). broke the whole thing up into two stints; took the better part of an evening and the whole morning (then again, i am very slow!)

hi melissa, thanks for your kind words! happy holidays to you too...

11:52 am, December 13, 2005  
Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

will the goddess of pastries ever speak once in the comment box? haha. hi jocelyn.

2:17 pm, December 13, 2005  
Anonymous sha said...

I thought I was in Napa Valley French Laundry or somewhere in Cote d Azur dining.. but its J work! hurrah. amazing menu you have.

Last year when Iwas holidaying in one of the greek islands, a couple went for a snorkell. But they were armed with bags,knife.. when they came out they brought fresh SEA URCHIN. they shared the harvest with us.

8:56 pm, December 13, 2005  
Anonymous gwenda said...

wowww!

9:24 pm, December 13, 2005  
Anonymous joey said...

I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite from that spread...Everything looks incredible! Where do I line up for tickets to dinner at your home? :)

9:28 pm, December 13, 2005  
Blogger michelle said...

Well, now, everyone has already expressed my sentiments, so let me just say this: Jocelyn, I'm coming over. I'll be there as soon as I win the lottery and can afford it. I'll buy all the ingredients, and you can have your fun of picking out the menu and I'll keep you company in the kitchen. I think that I just died and went to heaven while drooling over your pictures. Ahhh, R.I.P.

8:12 am, December 14, 2005  
Blogger obachan said...

That macadamia toffee crunch! I won't be able to get it off my mind until I actually eat it. Ahhhhhhh..... :O

6:57 pm, December 14, 2005  
Blogger Vivilicious said...

I am salivating, careful of the keyboard! Seriously J, wha does it take to get an invitation to your house for supper?! Well done, your had some very very lucky guests, hope they appreciated your work (how long did it take you by the way?) Cheers!

9:41 am, December 15, 2005  
Anonymous Melissa said...

You were quiet for so long I just knew you had to be up to something spectacular! What a feast, everything looks so beautiful! If I had to pick a favorite, though, it has to be dessert. I feel like I could just pluck it off the screen...

8:42 pm, December 15, 2005  
Anonymous cath said...

J - utterly breathtaking. I've been wanting to try that sea urchin recipe and now I'm inspired! Wonderful as always.

5:03 am, December 16, 2005  
Anonymous Tana said...

Oh my goodness, I found you linked from StephenCooks -- where have you been hiding?

GORGEOUS. I'm so glad I found you!

3:14 am, December 17, 2005  
Blogger Robs said...

Oh my oh my oh my...everything looks sooo perfect. I initially thought I stumbled across a restaurant's promotional website. Your food looks amazing! I'm so happy happy happy I found your website!

4:47 am, December 19, 2005  
Blogger Robs said...

Oh my oh my oh my...everything looks sooo perfect. I initially thought I stumbled across a restaurant's promotional website. Your food looks amazing! I'm so happy happy happy I found your website!

4:48 am, December 19, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi eatdrinknbmerry, i've been very tardy the last few weeks...really sorry about that...

hi sha, WOW! spanking fresh sea urchin, i'd have given an arm and leg to be there...

hi gwenda, thaannkks...

hi joey, thanks! you're much too kind; for you, no tickets required ;)

hi michelle, that sounds like a ball even on paper - you must let me know if you ever come visit!

hi obachan, good to hear from you! i adore macadamias (and most other nuts) too...

hi vivilicious, thanks! i called upon my collection of various stocks in the freezer for most of the sauces, so the hardest work was out of the way. so discounting the stock-making, say a couple of days?

hi melissa, thanks! dessert was most fun to put together; like lego blocks...

hi cath, thanks; it makes a little sea urchin go a longer way...

hi tana, in my dank dark little hole in a wall of a kitchen ;) thanks; really appreciate your taking the time to leave a kind note

hi robs, thanks for dropping by and your very kind words; glad glad glad you stumbled across too!

9:37 am, December 19, 2005  
Blogger Lori said...

I particularly like the desserts, J, but then again, you know I would. :p

6:23 pm, December 22, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi lori, thanks; glad the sweets have your seal of approval!

11:05 am, January 03, 2006  
Blogger Claudia said...

oh, lady, you make it all on your own? lady, lady, lady, it is the mos amazing one woman show i have ever seen.

congrats, you are special.

C.

8:45 pm, November 23, 2008  

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