Monday, October 16, 2006

Dinner... for Five

Dinner for eight became dinner for six. Two hours before dinner was to be served, it became five. Less dishes to clean and more wine to drink is what that meant for me.

The guests arrived around 6:30pm just as I was finishing final preparations in the kitchen. I prepared a white bean dip with pita crisps as well as some goat cheese crostinis for our snacking enjoyment while we all enjoyed a beverage. Hangar One vodka and a 2006 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, NZ were the beverages of choice. Hangar One is craft distilled vodka made in an old military hangar on the old Alameda Naval Air Station in northern California. I like vodka, I really like Hangar One.

I decided for this special dinner party I would serve four courses. I was able to purchase the freshest, highest quality ingredients for this dinner so I did my shopping at Russo's, Whole Foods, and Captain Marden's Seafoods. Russo's is located in Watertown, MA and is a fantastic purveyor of fresh, local, sometimes unique and always affordable produce. Captain Marden's Seafoods is one of the best places to purchase seafood in the Metro Boston region.

Course One: Tuna Tartare with Verjus. What is verjus you ask? Verjus (or verjuice) is the juice of unripe fruit, primarily grapes. It is used in cooking as you would use vinegar, lemon or lime juice. Unfortunately at this point in the evening I was thinking more about the timing of the courses and less about photographing the dishes for this post, and I forgot to take a picture of this dish. Picture the Tartare served in a Libby crooked stem martini glass and garnished with a few chive batons. I served more of the 2006 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc with this course.

Course Two: Arugula Salad with Julienned Asian Pear, Candied Walnuts and Goat Cheese. I served this salad with a red wine shallot vinaigrette. Although the salad was delicious and the Asian pear's texture and flavor was a hit, I thought the salad was missing something in the "eat with your eyes" category. Something to work on.

Course Three: Rosemary and Walnut Crusted Rack of Lamb served on Rosemary and Parsnip Risotto with Fresh Peas. This course took a bit of time to prep but the cooking process was easy. Sear the lamb and let it cool enough to be handled. Dip the racks in an egg, garlic and mustard mixture and then coat the racks in the rosemary walnut crust. Stick them in a 475 degree oven for about twenty to twenty five minutes for a medium temperature then rest them for about ten minutes. The risotto was also a piece of cake. A rich vegetable stock gave the risotto the tannish color and the peas were as fresh as they come. I spent a little while shelling them all; they were worth the effort! I served a 2003 Tapestry Shiraz from the McLaren Vale Appalachian in Australia. This wine is outstanding. Smooth and velvety with a perfect balance of spiciness that you would expect from a top shelf Shiraz.

Before the oven:

On the table:

Course Four: Homemade Angel Food Cake with Lemon Curd and Sweetened Berries. I forgot to add the fresh mint to the sweetened berries just before serving, but this dessert was light and refreshing. A perfect end to a delicious meal. I served this dessert with a 2005 Alasia Moscato D'Asti from Italy. Delicious!

No one left hungry or thirsty. It was a good night.