Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cooking at home: A presentable dinner

A change of our schedule allowed us to ask our friends Charlene and Alan to come for dinner in one weekend evening in late June. They don't seem to have a preference on anything particular, plus my work schedule has been crazy lately, so I was unable to plan too much ahead of time - so there goes items like steak or pork. Well I have been making a few duck dishes lately with some success, so I decided to stick with duck as my main course ingredient.

Well, dinner with friends coming over usually meant food experiment for me as I was eager to try out new ingredients or techniques or kitchen toys on them. This time I wanted to try something called fluid gel. Essentially Fluid Gel is somewhere in between a sauce, gel and a puree, with almost like a jammy texture that is fluid enough yet can be shape or spread on the dish. The name didn't sound something delicious (more like something you would put inside your car or something) but actually it's quite commonly used in many fine-dining, fancy restaurants.

Essentially fluid gel took in a mixture of gelification and thickening agents, which in most cases are agar and xanthan respectively. I basically used the recipe from here, using 1 cup of liquid, plus 0.5 teaspoon of agar and 1/8 tea spoon of xanthan. Then I mixed them together, slightly heat it up to help dissolve everything completely into the liquid base, then left it to cool in the refrigerator. The liquid will gradually turn into gel - then I just blended it so it became creamy, and leave that in a squeeze bottle until ready for dressing the dish. And I made a few versions of it and used it in several courses.

Anyway, I started off with a jamon 3-way appetizer. I made something similar a few weeks ago, but I wasn't too happy about it so I wanted to do it again. First is jamon "bikini" sandwich - a piece of jamon was sandwiched inside slightly toasted homemade focaccia, melted manchego and a spread of truffle paste. Last time my bread was too thick and I skipped the cheese so it's a little too dry, so this time, I knead and rolled my focaccia even thinner. So this is more true to the original recipe from Carles Abellan's Commerc 24 in Barcelona (you will also see it on the menu at Hong Kong's Catalunya)

I am running a low-carb menu today so I threw in a couple more jamon appetizers - the jamon arancini was essentially a crossover with origini - I used the Uonuma Koshihikari rice we picked up at Yuzawa, cooked and left to cool overnight, mixed with shreds of jamon and shaped into a ball by hand, then deep-fried. That was served with a paprika aioli. To round it up, I also made a pan-seared scallops served with jamon on top, with a dollop of yuzu kosho. Bacon-wrapped scallops are a common hors d'oevure so this is just a variation.

I wasn't going to mess with my tried and true sous vide salmon but out of convenience I did raise the temperature a little bit and shortened the cooking time (52 degrees at 15 minutes). It's a little less delicate and firmer than the one I usually do. I dressed the dish with leek cream, thin slice of radish, and some ikura (salmon roes). Around the dish I put in dices of mango and pickled cucumber (basically summer salsa) and then mango fluid gel as garnish. I was quite happy with the presentation and the taste combination - probably one dish I am most satisfied with making this year to date.

Our friend Charlene was a big fan of fine sake and they brought one over to share, and I basically made the salmon dish specifically to match with the sake. This Junmai Daiginjo from Hiroki Sake Brewery near Fukushima (飛露喜特選純吟) was smooth, full-bodied, dry and almost creamy.  I have been playing around matching sake and western dishes and I think this one worked quite well.

Next onto the main course. I did pan-seared duck breast not long ago at home, but this time I wanted to do it in the sous vide machine. Well, Modernist Cuisine book suggested 52C for 5 hours, which I followed just that, followed by searing with a blow torch. But the duck breast - which was imported from France and found in the frozen section of a supermarket - turned out to be a bit tough - I am still debating whether it's the duck or the cooking time. It's served with lentils, splash of balsamic gastrique and apricot fluid gel on the side (an inspiration from the sweet and sour sauce which we usually had with Cantonese roast duck) We had this with a young burgundy (Domaine Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers 2007) which I opened just before dinner. It's medium bodied with good finesse and ripe red fruit palate for the duck dish, I reckon. 

I finally made the dessert that I wanted to do a few weeks back. Once again I wanted to see what else I can do with the Japanese rice and I turned that into a rice pudding - cooked with coconut cream and inside the pudding, some azuki paste (ready-made). It's like something you would find in a Thai restaurant only it's less sticky. It's served with salted caramel ice cream and ginger sponge cake. I infused some smokey flavor into the custard before I churned the icecream so there's a hint of that when it comes out (I just love my smoking gun!), and I once again did the 40-second sponge cake that I so love doing. The original plan was to throw in some rice krispies but I guess no one hardly noticed that I forgot. I still need to work on the presentation of the sponge cake but the dish tasted quite alright, I must say, despite the combination sounds random.

Anyway, I think the dinner's at least presentable. I probably would use fluid gel more often since it's so easy to make!

1 comment :

Edena said...

More than presentable Gary!... Got to snag an invite one of these days! Watch out world, the bar just got raised yet again!