Last weekend I did something I’ve been itching to try; I cooked a challenging meal with another person. I’ve slightly assisted people in the kitchen before, or vice versa, but I wanted to take on an ambitious undertaking from recipe creation to plating with someone else and see how successful we could be. When Biskuit was willing to participate, and offered up his very dining-party-friendly home, I jumped at the chance.
One of my faults in the kitchen is that I often take on too much and I often run out of time or get frazzled when it comes time for the final push to put everything out on the table. Trying to finish a sauce, sear the meat, warm up a side dish, and not forget that I have bread in the oven all at the same time can be challenging and I tend to screw one or two things up.
For this meal we took on a six course menu from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook. Anyone familiar with this book knows his recipes are neither quick nor relatively easy, so they would be a good test to see how the two of us would work together.
I couldn’t have been much happier with the results.
Each dish was planned out better than I’ve ever done on my own. Grocery shopping was quicker. Doing our prep on Saturday and Sunday, glass of wine in hand, Beastie Boys blaring, was fun.
When it came time to plate, dishes came together fast. Every garnish was remembered. I was less stressed, and the meal was delicious.
— THE MEAL RUN-THROUGH —
Plating was set up ahead of time for each dish. I don’t do this enough, but now know it’s a must-do.
We started with the gruyere gougeres. Super easy, they’re fantastic right out of the oven.
Next up, the famous salmon cornets. Creating the cones was a cumbersome task, with multiple failures along the way. Then once they were done, when it came time to fill them with the creme fraiche, followed by the sashimi grade salmon from BHFM, many of the delicate cones fell apart.
I had the cornets at Per Se a few months ago, and only now do I respect the effort involved in this tiny, beautiful dish.
(This photo, and a few others are by Rowdy Food, as I couldn’t take many photos while we were working).
Next up – cucumber “cappellini” (cucumber strands textured like pasta), pickled Kumamoto oysters from Star Provisions, caviar, and dill.
Very briny and acidic, with nice texture, it was probably better looking that it tasted, but it’s worth it for presentation value alone.
The lobster crepe with carrot-ginger emulsion and pea shoots (Peas ‘n Carrots) may have been the star of the evening. The mascarpone rich lobster filling flavor could have been lost in the sweet sauce, had the mixture not been fortified with the lobster glace we made by boiling the stock of three lobsters down from roughly one quart of water to three tablespoons.
This dish is a keeper.
Next up – rack of lamb (double cut, frenched) with bean cassoulet. It took me roughly an hour to butcher three racks into this cut, having to remove every other bone in the rack, then clean (french) the bone end. It was a new process to me, and I was glad I did it. I would feel much more comfortable doing it again. The first rack took me forever, but I got progressively faster.
The lightly cooked beans consisted of wax, beans, October, fava, marrow, and adzuki beans. The first four were quickly blanched, while the latter two were dry beans that were gently simmered until al dente. The dish is finished with rosemary oil and a lamb “quick” sauce, which actually took Biskuit numerous hours late into Saturday night to complete. When Thomas Keller writes “quick” in quotes, it’s a tongue in cheek notion.
I love beans, so I was a big fan of this dish.
Cheese course – Monte Enebro from Star Provisions, golden beets layered on both sides of matchsticks of red beets, beet reduction, and radish micro greens.
The lady at the juice bar at Whole Foods Buckhead looked at me like I was crazy when I said I wanted a full 20oz cup of plain beet juice, but the reduction was worth it. The whole dish was amazing, another keeper.
Dessert – strawberry and champagne terrine (separate layers) with creme fraiche and mint. We were interested to see how this one would turn out, and I thought it was surprisingly refreshing and enjoyable.
While this meal was obviously an undertaking, I can’t get over how unstressed I was when everyone arrived. I totally attribute this to working with Biskuit, and thank him immensely. He definitely did more work than me, especially in terms of cleaning up, so I owe him one. I can’t wait for the next cooking marathon with my friends.
Thanks to the famous Savory Exposure for taking photos with our cameras while we worked.
Also thanks to everyone that brought some nice wines.