Friday, October 29, 2010

A romantic (hopefully) housewarming dinner for two

What pressure!!!!! I have been tasked by my sister to craft a menu that will repair a week of petty arguments and sniping that inevitably occurs whenever couples, no matter how blissfully in love they are, attempt things like moving. Other activities that also fall into this category include: putting together furniture (unfortunately, this one often occurs with, and thus exacerbates, the moving situ), driving through unfamiliar territory on vacation, having mixed family get togethers, and clothes shopping (really shoe shopping is the ultimate test, but it's all strenuous). All kidding aside, we all know how stressful and PIMA-like moving can be, so I have decided to go with a nice comforting meal so that everyone can relax and finally be able to enjoy each others' company again.

The menu will play out as such:

Hors D'Oeuvres
Smoked Salmon and Avocado "mousse" on cucumber rounds with chilies and mint, paired with a nice, crisp sauvignon blanc

Buttermilk Soaked Pan Fried Chicken, with Twice Baked Gruyere Potatoes, and Spicy Creamed Spinach

Drunken Fruit Salad with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Without further ado, the recipes:

Smoked Salmon mouse:
2 oz smoked salmon
1 avocado, pitted and mashed
1/2 lb cream cheese, softened to room temp
1 tblsp mint, chopped
1 thai chile, diced fine (optional, I know Migs doesn't love the HEAT)
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 seedless cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
S+P to taste

1)Dice salmon into small even pieces, set aside
2)Fold together all the other ingredients, and season to taste, and return to fridge, covered to chill for 20 minutes
3)Place one quennelle (this is a fancy french word for pretty looking dollop) of avocado "mousse" on top of each cucumber round, and sprinkle top with smoked salmon. I like to garnish with a little extra black pepper.

Pan Fried Chicken
2 lg Chicken breasts
1 cup buttermilk
1 tblsp hot sauce
2 eggs
1 tblsp black pepper
1 tblsp cayenne pepper
1 tblsp salt (kosher or sea only, iodized salt is the devil)
1 tblsp Herbes De Provence
1 cup plain breadcrumbs (Snobbily, I would suggest making your own...cheaper and better)
1 cup plus 1 tblsp flour
Oil of your choosing, just not olive, it's smoke point is too low, i like peanut

1)Marinate chicken in milk and hot sauce for at least one hour.
2)Combine all dry ingredients together in wide bowl, except the extra tblsp flour
3)Remove chicken from buttermilk, and whisk in two eggs
4)Return chicken to milk mixture, and wet thoroughly
5)Dip chicken into breadcrumb mixture, and coat thoroughly
6)Return chicken to milk mixture
7)Return chicken to breadcrumb mixture and again coat thoroughly
8)Sprinkle extra flour on plate and put your breaded chicken on it and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
9)Heat oven to 450
10)Heat pan with oil about 1/4 inch deep over medium-high heat (on a 1 to 10 burner, we're talking about a 6.5)
11)Saute Chicken on both sides about 2 minutes or until golden brown
12)Place saute pan in oven and cook 6-8 minutes more depending on thickness of breast.

****A breading tip : have a "dry hand" and a "wet hand". In other words, handle the chicken in the liquid with your left hand and in the breadcrumbs with your right hand, otherwise you will very effectively bread both of your hands and make a huge mess.

Twice Baked Potatoes
2 large potatoes
1 lg egg, beaten
1/2 cup Gruyere, grated
1 tblsp Parmesan, grated
1 tblsp chive, or scallion, chopped fine
2 tblsp heavy cream
1 tsp red chili flake
1 tblsp butter, melted
3 cloves roasted garlic, if you don't have any roasted garlic, 1 clove fresh, diced fine will do
S+P to taste

1)Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2)Bake potatoes in oven, plain, for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Don't pierce the potatoes beforehand
3)While still piping hot (I wear glove at this point, it makes things easier), slice potatoes in half lengthwise, and scoop out as much of the insides as you can without tearing the skin. It's okay to have a little interior left, it gives it a little structure.
4)Mash potatoes thoroughly, NO LUMPS, and mix in all ingredients except Parmesan, you are looking for basically a nice smooth mashed potato texture, not too runny, not too stiff
5)Refill the potato skins with your potato mixture, top with Parmesan, and return to oven for 25-30 minutes

Spicy Sauteed Spinach
1 lb spinach
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tblsp Thai chili paste (srirachi is the best)
1 shallot, diced fine
1 clove garlic, diced fine
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tblsp butter
S+P to taste

1)Melt butter over high heat, add onions and garlic before butter browns
2)Saute one minute, the add spinach, vinegar, heavy cream and seasoning
3)Let cream reduce, while stirring constantly, to be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (this is called nappe in cooking terminology just in case you read it in a cookbook anywhere)
4)Stir in your chili paste and enjoy

There really isn't a need for a sauce for this meal, as the cream from your spinach should serve as one, and go really well with everything else on the plate

Drunken Fruit Salad
4 oz Strawberries, halved
4 oz blueberries
4 oz raspberries
4 oz blackberries
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tblsp plus 3/4 tblsp sugar
1/8 cup brandy, or rum
1 tblsp honey

1)Chill a metal bowl in the fridge.
2)Split vanilla bean down the middle, and scrape with a pairing knife to get all o the goodness out of there.
3)Mix vanilla, COLD heavy cream, and 3/4 tblsp of sugar in the cold bowl, and whisk using the biggest whisk you have until firm peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use. **the bigger the whisk, and the bigger/colder the bowl is will make this easier
4)Mix all of the fruit with the remaining sugar, and the booze. Use a plastic spatula to gently toss the fruit without damaging it. Refrigerate for one hour at least

To serve:Spoon a generous portion of berries with just a little of the "juice" into a bowl and top with a generous portion of the whipped cream, ideally served with some champers, or a kir if you are so inclined as a nice end to a nice, if filling night.

Hope this helps create a blissful, romantic night at the new house Noush and Migs. Let me know how it goes (the food that is).

And Miguel, don't forget the old but true saying:

"The four most important words in any marriage....I'll do the dishes"

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