19 September 2010

The Big Yellow Canary is Back

The Cooking Channel launched recently.  It is largely what the Food Network was at its inception... actual cooking shows, not so much competitions and food entertainment programming so I enjoy several shows periodically when I have time to watch.  I was inspired by a simple and humble recipe I saw on French Food at Home: buckwheat crepes with creamed tomato.  A couple weeks after the show aired, I decided to try it for a main course.  Since we are big eaters, I thought it needed to be heartier for a main course, so I added ribbons of zucchini and several small shrimp to each plate.  It was really delicious and summery.  

Since it was easy to do and plates prettily, I decided to serve this as a starter for a small dinner party in late August when tomatoes are in their late summer prime.  One of our dinner guests said, "If you didn't feed me another thing tonight, I would be very happy."  That wasn't meant as a criticism, as in "Please don't make me eat any more of your horrid cooking."  The richness of the cream and the acidity of the tomato play off each other for balance, and then the buterrmilk-buckwheat crepes add a tart earthiness just simply brings it all together.  Get the recipe here.

The main course was a grilled butterflied boneless leg of lamb, roasted asparagus and orzo salad.  The lamb was from the Lebanese Butcher.  I rubbed with minced garlic (a whole head) and chopped fresh thyme, rosemary and oregano and refrigerated overnight.  The fridge really stunk in the morning!  On Saturday evening, I folded the meat in half, skewered it in two directions to keep it together, and then put it on a hot charcoal grill until the thickest parts were medium rare.  I tented it with aluminum foil and popped it into a warm oven until ready to slice and serve.

Asparagus -- so easy you can't call it cooking.  Place on a jelly roll pan, drizzle lightly with good quality extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, pop into a 425 degree oven until you can smell it.  When you take it out, it should be bright green, slightly shiny, and crisp.  Plate it and garnish with fresh lemon zest.

Orzo salad - also very easy.  Cook a good quality orzo according to package directions, drain (do not rinse!), and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Chiffonade a pre-washed bag of baby spinach and add to orzo.  Add a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes.  Don't add too many because these are strong in flavor and can overpower the whole dish.  Next, freshly grate some Pecorino Romano, season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and either fresh oregano or thyme if desired, and a generous pour of fruity and flavorful extra virgin olive oil.  Serve at room temperature.

For dessert, we offered two options: tarte tatin and mousse au chocolat.  Of course everyone had a bit of both.

The tarte tatin is a variation on a recipe by Anne Burrell.  The recipe doesn't seem to be there anymore but there is a video.  The apples I used were Honey Crisp apples, both sweet and tart. Normally I serve this with a small quenelle of crème fraîche on top, but since I had the mousse, there was no need for the cream.

The chocolate mousse recipe is courtesy of Alton Brown.  I do have a truer French recipe but AB's has an element of guarantee about it -- gelatin! So with guests coming, I chose to have a safety net and went with AB's version.  When I first made it, it was too sweet and too chocolatey for my taste.  However, once chilled in individual serving dishes, topped with perfectly ripe raspberries, the flavors are dulled just enough to make a luscious, airy, chocolate dessert that is perfect with strong coffee.

Wines: With the appetizer, we served an unoaked, dry French Chardonnay.  For the main course, we served two kinds of red.  For the people who prefer a food friendly, light red, we served a southern French Pinot Noir.  For those who enjoy a fuller bodied red, we served a Syrah, which after a bit of air was a nice wine also.  All in all, it was a lovely night with good company, good conversation, good food.