Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cooking at Home: Making of an "Artisan" Dinner

I have been experimenting with some new dishes lately, and we have some of our friends come over one Saturday night to try them out.

We started off with an amuse bouche of white chocolate "truffle" with foie gras filling. We had something similar in a few places before (namely Amber of Hong Kong and more recently, at Yukawatan in Japan's Kuruizawa) so I was curious to see whether this can be replicated at home. Turned out it's more difficult than I thought in terms of archieving an uniform coating of chocolate on the foie gras cube, but at least it did taste decent. Something we can explore further.

The first course is actually a trio - which I called The Three Sliders. I made my own mini brioche burger bun (recipe here) and used three different fillings. First one is duck confit with chestnut-lentil hummus. Duck leg was cooked sous vide at 75C for 12 hours, then deboned. The idea of chestnut-lentil hummus came from a dish I had at Jaan in Singapore last year. I seasoned it with Ras El Hanout to give this an exotic flavor. My version of cassoulet, so to speak.

Second slider is smoked pork belly with shiso and ume jam. Pork belly was rolled and cooked in sous vide at 58C for 36 hours, cut into thin slices, pan-fried then infused with a smokey flavor using a smoking gun (see picture above) just before served. Then I put in shiso for the aroma, and ume (japanese plum) jam for the sweetness to bring some contrast in flavors.

To round this up, my third slider is with caramelized onions and melted gruyere. The more straight-forward of the three, onions were slow-cooked on a shallow pan for 2 hours to bring out the sweetness, along with gruyere put in just before the sliders were assembled.

For second course, I turned to something lighter and more refreshing. Starting with a salmon tartare marinated in citrus juice, I added lemon jelly and cucumber-mint foam for a more interesting combination of texture and flavors, and all these I served in a little glass tumbler. It sounded complicated but this is probably the easiest dish that I did all night, especially most of the ingredients could be prepared in advance.

I often drew inspiration in cooking from my recent travel, and the main course came right out of our March trip to Japan. Started off with a medley of spring vegetables (spring bamboo shoot, carrot, peas, Japanese mountain yam and Brussels sprouts) simmered in miso sauce, I put that along side with slices of beef short ribs cooked sous vide in 59C for 48 hours. I was being a little adventurous, trying to mix in unusual seasonal vegetables to see how it would fare with the short ribs - I personally found the spring bamboo shoot - which I got from the Shanghainese grocery store - was an interesting addition, adding to the subtle flavor and crunchiness texture. I even threw in some leftover mascarpone cheese from the fridge just to give it a try!  Coincidentally I had something similar a few days before the dinner at Ta Pantry, so at least I know this is not something out of the blue.

I did 2 desserts for the evening. First was what I called "M&M" - Malt Ice-cream with Miso Butterscotch. I wanted to test (and show) the versatility of miso paste so I followed up a miso-based main course with a miso-based dessert. Since this was meant to be super-sweet, I only served a small glass (almost like a tasting portion) with a small scoop of ice cream with just a light drizzle of the butterscotch sauce, just as a pre-dessert. I love the soft texture of the malt ice cream and a hint of savory sweet in the miso butterscotch. Miso flavor not very distinct though, despite I put quite a lot in (almost frantically)

I wanted to do a somewhat complicated dessert, trying to combine as many different flavors and shapes and textures in one plate as I can - so this is what I came up with. I started with matcha mousse which was piped and flattened on the plate. Then on top, I started the assembly of different components - honey sponge cake (using Ferran Adria's quick sponge cake recipe which I did a few months ago), marscapone icecream, citrus merigue and completed with pickled grape. I probably need to work on the presentation of this, but I quite like this idea of somewhat wild combinations and there are so many other variations I can pull off based on this. Something I can continue to work on and I think I am getting better at handling the sponge cake this time.

Oh, wines. We basically went with whatever our friends brought over - starting with a burgundy white, then a Bordeaux right-bank red and finish with a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. My favorite of the night has to be the Benjamin Leroux Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru-Abbaye de Morgeot 2009. Simply amazing with a green apple note, good weight and long finish in this marvelous year. The Chateauneuf-du-Pape worked well with the beef too.

It's been a fun evening - especially I got to play with every single piece of kitchen toys we have - and enjoyed the good company of our friends from church at home. Look at the mess I have made of my kitchen:

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