Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dinner for Two (Part 1) - Rice Paper Ravioli

Bouquet of 99 roses. Candlelit Dinner. Those are not really our thing. At least not on February 14. Not when restaurants were baiting on customers with "special menu" charging twice the normal price; not when pretty much everyone is doing the same thing.

Instead, this year I decided to cook a simple dinner at home on Valentine's Day. I realized it's been a while since I cooked a slighly more sophisticated dinner just for us two so it's good to stay in, opening up one of the bottles we kept in the wine fridge to clear up some much needed space, and just chill.

My first course was not really an original dish - I was merely trying to recreate with my own interpretation. I took inspirations from 2 dishes I had at a dinner recently at a new restaurant, which has become one of our recent favorites. 64-degree egg is the signature dish of this restaurant, so I am trying to do the same, coupling it with butter-poached lobster and a crustacean bisque reduction. Sounded fancy but relatively fail-safe, as long as I woke up early enough to get a live lobster at the wet market.

I also experimented using rice paper in a western dish. At the same dinner I just mentioned we ordered a "ravioli" dish, which turned out to be an open face one with a "pasta" sheet on top. I wasn't 100% sure what that pasta sheet was - in fact I still don't - but I suspect that was rice paper since it looked quite translucent to me. And come to think of it - that was a genius idea really. Rice paper is ready-made and readily available (in Asian grocery stores); it only took seconds to prepare once you opened the packet, and it's a little addition which goes a long way to improve the presentation, with an extra dimension to both the taste and texture to the dish. So now, I got one more kitchen trick in the pocket I could use later on.

Recipe: 64-degree eggs "Ravioli" with butter-poached lobster and crustacean bisque reduction

Ingredients: (serves 2)
  • 1 live medium-sized lobster (around 600g, or 1 catty)
  • 300g live prawns (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped carrots + 2 tablespoon of finely diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup of chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup of chopped shallots
  • 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of sherry (or brandy)
  • 2 tablespoon of whipping cream
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoon of Old Bay Seasonings (optional)
  • 2 eggs, kept in room temperature
  • 4 tablespoon of butter (half a stick)
  • 1 heaping spoon of all-purpose flour
  • chives, finely chopped for garnish
  • 1/2 cup of croutons (using toasted bread)
  • 2 pieces of rice paper


For the sauce:
1. Fill the stockpot half-full with water and heat until boil. In the meantime, rinse both the lobster and the prawns.
2. With water boiling, put lobster and prawns in the pot. Make sure they were completely submerged in the water.
3. Take out the prawn out in 2 minutes, and lobster in 8. Set them aside until they were cool enough to handle.
4. Remove the shells of both the prawns and the lobster. Use the scissors to carefully remove the lobster tail and claws meat and keep in refrigerator until later time (don't worry if it's not cooked through). Same with the prawns with the veins removed. Save everything else - the shells, the heads, all the juices that came out, the tomalley, along 5 cups of the water in the stockpot. Set aside. 
5. In the now emptied stockpot, heat with a light splash of olive oil, put coarsely chopped onions, shallots, celery and carrots in the pot and sauteed for 5 minutes.
6. Add all the shells and remaining parts and the water saved in the stockpot. Add more water if necessary so everything was submerged. Put in a sprig of thyme. Simmer in low heat for approximately 2 hours. Check and stir occasionally to make sure it won't burn.
7. After 2 hours, discard all solids in the stockpot using a sieve (ideally with cheesecloth) and you have a wonderful crustacean stock. Take 2 cups of the stock and saved the rest for some other use (it can be kept frozen for months).
8. Put 2 cups of the stock in a saucepan, stir in tomato paste, sherry (or brandy) and whipping cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep saucepan in low heat and reduce liquid by approximately half.
9. In a small frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat until bubbling. Add 1 tablespoon of flour and stir so the butter and flour are thoroughly mixed. This is called roux. Leave the roux in the frying pan in medium-low heat for 5 minutes until it's browned with nutty aroma - make sure it won't burn. Pour roux into the reduced stock to thicken into bisque-like consistency.

For the 64-degree eggs:
9. In the meantime, boil eggs in a water bath at 64 degrees for 30-45 minutes. (Sous Vide machine is ideal - but nothing wrong with using good old pot with thermometer stuck in) If you prefer the eggs to be a bit more runny, try 1 or 0.5 degree lower but keep the cooking time the same.

Final touches:
10. Take lobster and prawn meat out from the refrigerator. Cut lobster tail crosswise into 2 pieces and similarly cut prawn crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces.
11. In a frying pan, melt 3 tablespoon of butter over medium heat until bubbling. Turn down the heat, and put lobster and prawn meat in the pan. Slowly pour the butter over the meat to re-heat and cook through.
12. In a saucepan, heat water until boiling. Blanch the 2 tablespoon of finely-chopped carrots in water for 2 minutes and immediately placed in a iced water bath to stop the cooking. Dry with kitchen towel.
13. Reheat the bisque sauce in the saucepan if necessary.
14. Have a bowl of warm water (70-80 degrees) ready on the side - large enough for the rice paper to be dippped in.
15. To plate, place the carrots into a deep dish or soup plate. Crack open the cooked eggs and place on top of the carrots, and surround it with prawn meat and croutons. Put the lobster meat (tail and claw) on top of the egg.
16. Dip the rice paper in warm water for 20-30 seconds until soft, remove and dry quickly with kitchen towel. Carefully place on top of the dish (so everything is covered). Pour/spoon bisque sauce on the side of the dish, and garnish with chives on top.

Wine pairing:
2005 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Champagne - Golden color with very fine bubbles, with an undertone of citrus and pear nose and subtle floral aroma. Very soft on the body, the acidity jumped out but not the toasty flavor I would expect from a vintage champagne - definitely more marzipan than brioche, and with a long, refreshing finish.

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