Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Burrata Brings in the New Year: Another Epsiode of Making a Wow Dish in Someone Else's Kitchen

You feel like a culinary burglar when cooking in someone else's kitchen:
  • A little hesitant with a foreign countertop, knife, pantry.  
  • Pulling open 2 or 3 drawers for an item.
  • Getting the timing right with another's oven, stovetop, even toaster.
I've mentioned the rules I follow when helping cook a meal in someone else's kitchen.  Here's an updated set of rules for when you volunteer (or are asked) to cook the entire meal as I did for a New Year's Eve dinner:

  1. Keep it simple:  The less equipment you touch, the better.  A recipe with less than 7 easy ingredients will also keep you safe and things simple.  Adapt dishes that you've made before.  
  2. Give yourself twice as much time: You'll need it.  Hosts will ask questions, you may need to make a last minute ingredient run, etc. Take time with the prep and be social while getting everything ready.
  3. Be gracious, give credit to the helpers/host, and clean up.
Here's the menu for a New Year's Eve in beautiful Carlsbad, CA for a group of 7.

The evening began with a St. Paul de Vence, a sparkling wine cocktail named after its location in the south of France. Click on the photo to see how you can easily make it. You can taste the effervescence of the sparkling wine with notes of apples and amaretto. It's an eye opener.

The St. Paul de Vence Cocktail

Next came the first taste. We actually changed the order of the menu and served the butternut squash soup first (simply because the guest who made this delicious creation did not make enough!)

Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut Squash Soup, a photo by atl10trader on Flickr.

Next dish served is a go-to dish for me if I can find fresh burrata: plated with basil pesto and simple, roasted tomatoes. As the rules say, it's easy, uses a few ingredients, and feeds the eyes as much as the appetite.

Burrata, Basil Pesto, Roasted Tomatoes

Here's how to make this dish:

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 1 pkg of burrata (sold at higher end grocery stores) - sliced correctly serves 4 people
  • 4 big tomatoes - in season
  • 3 packages of basil (or 4 bunches) - remove the stems
  • handful of either pine nuts, marconi almonds, shelled pecans
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  1. Prepare an ice bath
  2. Steam 3 cups of water heavily salted
  3. Place the basil in a colander and pour the boiling water over all of the basil to turn it a bright green
  4. Immediately put the basil in the ice bath to retain the bright color and stop the heat from cooking it
  5. Put the basil, nuts, and slowly drizzle olive oil into a blender until the mixture is smooth
  6. Cut the tomatoes into slices the width of your index finger, salt and pepper the slices and drizzle with olive oil
  7. Put the tomatoes on a cookie sheet into the oven at 400 F for 45 minutes or until you see them nice and roasted
  8. Slice the burrata
  9. Plate the dish as shown in the picture
By now everyone's in the mood with the right amount of wine and food.  It's like a confessional - I know the meal is working when people start discussing great food they ate in the past.  Still helps to keep passing the wine around too.

Japanese style Snapper in Ginger & Onions

Any fresh fish will do - even whole fish. The trick to this dish which is often served in parchment paper, is to tightly wrap and tuck the paper before steaming it in a pot for 10 minutes - shortly before serving. Salt and pepper the fish before and after. The green onions and parsley are added with a little lemon zest and then some heated ginger oil is ladled over the fish as it is plated.

The dish is served on a bed of caramelized fennel and onions, rice infused with coconut milk, and with a segmented wedge of grapefruit. The citrus adds a perfect contrasting touch of acidity to the dressing and ginger oil as well as dash of color to the plate.

I added an extra side of roasted parsnips in a tahini/greek yogurt and honey dressing. Delicious as it was, I could have saved some time and pressure without it.  Stay simple.

The evening started and ended with sparkling wine, great company, a few resolutions, and plenty to cheer about in a hopeful, new year.  Leave a comment if you have a question about the dishes.  Make a resolution to try some burrata.

New Year Napkin
Happy New Year 2012, a photo by atl10trader on Flickr.

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