Tuesday, August 28, 2012

...in which I plan my most daring meal yet

Lately I've been frustrated by the kind of food I've been making lately.  I love you family, but cooking for 25+ is a pain in the ass, and I'm always limited by what I can make due to the need for feeding the masses.  I've always dreamed of going all out on a very special dinner for once, with multiple courses- a meal I can say I am extremely proud to have cooked.  That is why for my final dinner before leaving for school I'm going all out for a small group.  This is my excuse to cook for 3-4 days straight with reckless abandon, and lose myself in a craft I have been practicing for the majority of my life.  Evidently, it's also a reason for me to start using excessively flowery language in my blog posts.

Now on to the menu...

I think menu planning is the bane of my amateur culinary existence.  This took me three (3!) days to plan, damnit.  It's trying to find a way to venture into the daunting universe of incorporating fine dining into my cooking, when I'm so used to beef and chicken.  In the 10 or so years that I have been seriously cooking, this will be my very first time roasting a loin of pork (though that in itself isn't really a fine dining accomplishment)

poorly drawn venn diagram

While California affords the luxury of almost year-round produce, I actually decided to do what I should have done a long time ago and plan a seasonal menu.  Since we are almost at the cusp of fall (well, actually it's a month away, but august --> september is a big step to me)  I came up with the idea of a transitional menu.  Starting off with in season summer produce as the appetizer/first course, and ending with fall's best offerings for dessert.  After making sure I had the dictionary definition down pat, I named the menu Equinox, in honor of the theme.  By this point I was giving myself multiple back pats to make me feel better about the fact that this is what I do on a summer night. 

Since each course gradually moved towards fall ingredients, I renamed the appetizers as August, the entree as September, and dessert as October.  As I typed that up at 1:15 a.m. I was stupidly giddy and bouncing in my chair in excitement.  I felt like I was about to run a real restaurant, which as I think back is an emotional accomplishment of sheer delusion.  While I finally feel I'm creeping out of my comfort zone onto more adventurous culinary waters, it could also just be that the copious amounts of adjectives on the menu I typed up is very well feeding my ego. 

I wanted to include produce that only tastes legitimately good in summer- in this case sugary, juicy, cherry tomatoes, bright yellow corn, and vibrantly red bell peppers.  Since there's a half gallon of whole milk in the fridge (and I can only stomach skim), some house made ricotta will be in order for the crostini.  That paired with a light salad with roasted shrimp should be pretty good as far as first courses go.

This was a bit on the tougher side to come up with... What entree makes you immediately think of autumn?  Roast duck legs? A bit too rich.  Beef or chicken?  Too common.  Pork Loin?  Perfect, but a bit foreign to me.  I'll be playing it safe by just roasting it with some vegetables and herbs, and making an apple cider reduction. 

I also desperately wanted to use some mushrooms, and after a bit of foodgawking, I saw an awesome idea for a simple roasted mushroom pasta with wilted spinach.  While in my heart I knew fresh pasta would be the bee's knees, I couldn't even stomach all of the time intensive sweatiness I would have to go through, since pasta dough for me has always been like trying to roll out a rubber band.  However, after doing some research, I realized that I have been using a crappy pasta recipe all along, and after a test run today, I am recklessly doing hand made tagliatelle for the side dish.

When I think of fall fruit I think pears, apples, and cranberries.  Problem is, the only think I could remotely come up with to do with them was a fruit crisp, or crumble... that's a bit of a cop out after all of the dishes preceding it.  Just a simple crisp, when my main goal is to go outside my boundaries.  Sure, it'll probably be tasty, but it's disappointing after all the effort I went through for all the other courses. 

I then remembered the trials and tribulations of Carole's experience in the French Laundry at Home, in which she makes Keller's Candied Apple.  I surely knew I might stick my head into the oven if I tried to pull that off in its entirety, so I'm doing a slight mockery semi-tribute to it.  Buttermilk cake, with a poached apple on top, some cinnamon gelato, and an almond tuile on top.  Somehow if I find the time and resources I may spring for homemade apple ice cream instead of making a pit stop at the gelateria. 

UPDATE: I'm springing for homemade candied apple ice cream.

You probably know the korova cookies better as Dorie Greenspan's infamous, and utterly addictive World Peace cookies.  To tie in to the autumn theme, I'm incorporating cranberries and a hint of cinnamon. 

So there we have it... A full menu where the only thing I'm not making is a baguette for the crostini...

Saturday, September 1st, 10 people, 7:00 pm.  It's on.

Oh and by the way, here are some of my favorite standbys for a dinner soundtrack

Beyond the Sea by Robbie Williams
Bella Luna by Jason Mraz
Don't Know Why by Norah Jones
Quando, Quando, Quando by Michael Buble (or anything Buble)
The Ratatouille Soundtrack by Michael Giacchino


  1. I'm super late on this, but this sounds amazing!! I hope the meal was just how you wanted it and I'm sure it was absolutely delicious! Props to you, so ambitious! Keep it up!

    And I LOVE the idea of your menu, great concept!

    Oh and would you be willing to email me the recipe for the tuile? haha I've been looking for a good one!

    1. Hi Chris! For the tuile I actually used Gale Gand's recipe for Milan cookies, but spread it out much thinner. Also, you can pipe them out using a flat, wide tip.