Monday, September 21, 2009

Library Auction Dinner: Formulating a Menu

So on Saturday I went over to the house of the people I will be cooking for (if you don't know what I'm talking about check here), and talked about the dinner.

Overall there were not many things that they are completely opposed to. The wife cannot take concentrated amounts of sugar, and they are not big fans of anything that slithers down the throat (oysters, sea cucumbers etc.). They also dislike lima beans and any overcooked veggies (like canned).

Thankfully, the likes far outnumber the dislikes. They are not vegetarians (thank goodness) and they enjoy all protein. They have however, been eating a lot of fish lately so they requested less of an emphasis on seafood. They are very into sauces and they like "good basic food with fresh ingredients." They absolutely love mushrooms in any form and enjoy the pairing of sweet and savory (something like figs and bacon).

To Drink:
They believe that whites have their place but generally prefer reds, namely Spanish Varietals.

Not overly sweet (double chocolate anything).

Generally they prefer sturdier breads over white.

So what am I gonna make:
I haven't decided yet but I have a general idea. The couple did not place a lot of restrictions on me so I have a lot of room to work with, which is perfect; I can pretty much cook whatever I want. In terms of bread, they said they generally preferred sturdier types, but I'm really tempted to make Thomas Keller's brioche-- I've made it many times and I'm sure they will love it.

In terms of the main courses, I'm still not sure whether I want to do 4 or 5. Maybe four and an amuse bouche? Dessert will definitely only be one course and if I decide to do 5 I think the fourth might be a cheese course where I would pick a few of my favorite cheeses and put together a composed plate with condiments and all.

I have an idea for a dish that I've wanted to try out for a long time scallops with chorizo sauce and roasted broccoli. They used to make an awesome chorizo sauce at Lacroix that I'm confident I could replicate. Scallops are really nice and meaty and they definitely would go well with a strong sauce like that of chorizo. When roasted, broccoli is no longer a little harmless green vegetable. It becomes more assertive and develops a deeper flavor. I'm thinking that this dish might need some acid, or maybe something else in general. I know I can just finished the sauce with some lemon juice, but I'm not completely sure if I'm satisfied with the dish like that.

That will probably be the second course. To start off I need something really nice and light. Maybe a refreshing soup? Maybe pumpkin, but would a light version of pumpkin soup taste good? What about a pumpkin soup with some sauteed mushrooms on the bottom and a dollop of creme fraiche on top?

Third Course I definitely want to feature duck confit. Duck Confit is just something that I'm 100% confident I can make taste awesome that there's really no reason not to include it. Right now I've got a duck confit risotto with some veggie on my mind, but would I be progressing too fast? Is that too heavy for a third course?

Yea I know I'm running out of courses, but I also wanna fit in pork belly somehow. The pork belly that I made a few weeks ago, was just so astonishingly good, that I can't not give it to someone I'm hoping to please. But what would I pair the pork belly with?

It's gotta be something with apples or pumpkin. I've never really been into making refined dessert plates so I may just do like a pumpkin cheesecake, cut out 2 pieces, garnish them with some fruit puree, then save the rest for myself as a reward for a hard day's work.

All these are questions that I will have to address, and if you would like to offer suggestions or advice please feel welcome to. I will keep yall updated as I refine my ideas.


Maria said...

Sounds like fun!

Chorizo-scallops/confit/belly seems like a really dense progression to me. A lot of oil on the tongue. Not that that's a bad thing, especially in the fall. :)

Or maybe lose the risotto and do a play on the duck confit with some 'confit' apples? I'm thinking a silky, dense apple like you'd find in an awesome tarte tatin. Such a good pairing, apple and duck, in the fall.

Keep us updated ...

James said...

Like you were going to use canned veg.

So what about pork belly and scallops together? Add chorizo in there and it's to die for.

Duck confit & fava beans? Pea puree? Or pickled mushrooms? Green lentil & mushroom ragout?

No assiette of desserts for you then? Tarte tatin's my favourite apple dessert. Easy to finish off too - it's all in the prep.

Ever tried spelt rolls? I like the malty flavour. Not much gluten so you add baking soda too.

If you're doing a cheese course what about figs & blue cheese. One cheese on it's own is good.

huswyf jewell said...

perhaps the fig/pork belly as the amuse?

The scallops chorizo and broccoli

duck confit with a mushroom ragout with a rusk, or mushroom risotto?

There's a dish I enjoy cooking and serving called Kaddo Boriani, it's an Afghanistani roast pumpkin served with both a yogurt and a meat condiment.
The pumpkin component would translate quite well to a dessert;slice the squash into the final shape you'd like to present, marinate the flesh, roast long and slow, then use it. It's neat stuff.

How do you feel about cheese courses having a composed salad? How do you feel about small composed salads being served at the end of a meal? It's not "how it's done" but I have become fond of a few tart leaves with a cheese and some berries or cornichons.

erik said...

Carrot may be another option for the soup.

Not sure if you've seen it on Ruhlman's blog but his pork belly with clams an potatoes looked pretty darn good. But maybe that would be too much seafood if you're also doing scallops. You could do what a previous commenter said and put the scallops with the belly instead of the clams.

As far as the duck confit, I always love risotto. That dish sounds like it would be very good too me. And I don't think it would be too heavy if you follow it with the cheese course and dessert.

Then you'd have soup, scallops/belly, confit, cheese, dessert. Sounds like a good meal to me.

Anonymous said...

for condoments on your cheese course u should use honey comb and quince paste

Chris said...

Sounds good. I'd sure like to hear how you make your chorizo sauce.

Mandoline said...

How about a dollop of pumpkin gelato to cleanse the palate?

Miriam the Mommy said...

I am imagining the menu as written and my tongue is dying for a piece of lettuce (or something raw and green).

word verification: mushmet. Like you were serve mushy meat...

Tino said...

I think if you decide to do a pumpkin soup (which I think is a fantastic idea), keep your flavors consistent. What I would love to see is a silky smooth pumpkin puree, topped with some toasted and salted pumpkin seeds, a little creme fraiche, and a few drops of pumpkin seed oil to finish it off. Multiple flavors of pumpkin and different textures as well.

For dessert, you could go with a simple rustic apple tart (free-form) and serve it with a little fresh vanilla bean ice cream or perhaps some creme anglaise.

Good luck!

Unknown said...

What about a butternut squash soup? There's a lovely recipe I was using last year with apples and smoked paprika in it. Very delicious.

Perhaps a crumble for desert? While not as refined looking, you could put a scoop of lovely homemade ice cream on it (vanilla? pumpkin?) and it's a lovely, fruity way to end off instead of something dense and heavy.

Ryan said...

Pork belly and Apple? you said they like sweet and savory and pork and apples is a natural combination

Anonymous said...

u said u had chorizo right? and that u wanted to do an amuse bouche well
this is what i would do. take a piece of brioche and cut a small hole in it with a round pasrty cutter...saute a whole bunch of those with evoo then dipp those in bitter sweet chocolate and put a piece of chorizo on top of it at my restraunt people love it u get crunchy smoky sweet and salty all in one hit.... and it is pretty easy good luck with this....remeber to season ur food well...and dont out do ur self. simple may make a larger impression than if u do a too much that was poorly done....but i am sure u no of wishes .......

Jumper said...

Butternut squash soup sounds GOOD.

PlaysWithKnives said...

For the soup I'd suggest a butternut squash soup, with just a light touch of maple syrup in it, with candied pecans and asian pears, or toasted pumpkins seeds with pumpkin seed oil.

If you want to do pork belly, I think searing it and putting that with the risotto. Fold in some blanched kale (or other sturdy green, and surround it with a lemon-infused chicken stock that has whole herb leaves in it (marjoram, thyme, rosemary, etc).

I think confit might get a little lost in a risotto, maybe do a simple amusé with some figs or something.

With the scallops, I like to go with citrus. And since citrus is actually a late fall/winter item, it would work with the seasonality. Hot and sweet peppers, maybe pickled red onions, cilantro, and a citrus vinaigrette?

Is there any really good farmed pheasant or duck around? Those are my favorite fall poultry and both go great with butternut squash, and you could throw the confit in that dish somewhere and have duck/pheasant two ways.

Anonymous said...

I vote for the cheese plate. It is not really cooking. It is more like asking Dali to arrange the crap in your curio intellectual exercise in composition. Of course, play it where it fits in the meal, not where tradition tells us to close with it. Break an egg!!

James said...

There's always duck consomme too.....

Mother of a 4 year old foodie said...

If you are going to do a pumpkin soup, I'd probably skip the pumpkin based dessert. Unless they both expressed a strong like for pumpkin, it's one of those foods that people either love or hate, and it could be risky offering it for two courses.

Besides, apple is definitely a nice compliment to pork, still fits in with the autumn theme, and would be a good choice for a lightly sweet dessert.

Canned veggies. Mmmm... Not!

Anonymous said...

Does any of that work together? what statement is this trying to make, this menu does not make any linear sense. If you serve this people will just be lost. Simplify and you will do much better, do a party for them not for yourself.

nhallfreelance said...

I think that you might not want to include seafood as one of the mains, since they explicitly said that they would prefer NOT to have an emphasis on seafood. Of course, the scallops with chorizo sauce sounds great, but if you're doing this dinner for them, it might be wise to take their espoused preferences into consideration.

For soup, I'd like to recommend something that might be a bit different. Make a pot of lentils with standard aromats, but with a bit extra water. Strain, clarify, serve as lentil consomme. Lentil stock is amazing stuff, and garnish options are endless. It would be light and earthy at the same time, and would go very well with any number of autumnal items - barely sauteed dice of apples, pumpkin or squash, various meats. Then, you can use the lentils to go with the confit, which I kind of like, especially if you leave them fairly toothsome, and the confit is nicely crisped. Toss some blackberries in with it.

This is probably overly obvious, but if they like salty/savory combos, and you were thinking belly already, that's an area where you can REALLY play with the salty/savory/sweet concept. Maybe leave the belly nice and soft from braising, and get a crunchy AND sweet element in with some kind of barely sweet brittle? Maybe a maple infused one that also includes a little bit of sambal or chili of some sort?

For the cheese course, simple is DEFINITELY better. Pick one or two really nice cheeses, appropriate condiments, and have that in place of a dessert. I like composed cheese courses in lieu of dessert.

Good ideas, though.

Margo said...

I agree that you shouldn't serve scallops if they specifically requested "less seafood." I like butternut squash soup better than pumpkin, too - I had a tasty thin butternut squash soup with creme fraiche and a little bit of cinnamon oil on it recently. I recreated it with a little carrot and a little curry powder (no cinnamon oil - I'm trying to downsize to move), and it was really nice.

I also really like the idea of a rustic fruit dessert - my friend that says he doesn't like "overly sweet" desserts always loves a simple fruit dessert.

Nick N said...

thanks for all your help!
I will certainly take all your advice into consideration.

One thing to note- they do like seafood, but she requested less of an emphasis, not no seafood altogether. having talked to her in person, I got the sense that she means she didn't want more than one seafood dish. I think that a scallop dish is appropriate.