Wednesday's dinner and my first meme
Ever since Anne tagged me a few weeks ago for my first meme (topic: what would you make if you had a bunch of food bloggers over for dinner), I've been meaning to post about it.
But just like the other posts I've been meaning to write about recent visits to Per Se, Jean-Georges, Burger Joint, and Pala, I just haven't gotten around to it. I can't keep up people! I eat three full meals every day (often with sweet snacks in between) but just don't have enough time or energy to write about them all. It's times like these that I have NO idea how Luisa is writing really good posts every single day this month as a part of NaBloPoMo. Not to mention that she's also able to still cook up a storm and read books in practically one sitting. I give her serious credit.
So, in the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, I'm going to tell you about a dinner Daniel and I hosted for five of our friends on Wednesday night. Since it was such a smashing success (April, Josh, Allison, Mark and Marie, feel free to back me up here!), I know it'd be the perfect meal to serve a bunch of food obsessed bloggers (provided none are vegetarian of course).
To start, we served one of our favorite fall dishes: pumpkin ravioli with a sage brown butter sauce using this recipe from Chow. We did not make the ravioli from scratch (it was a weeknight after all), but our local butcher has a great selection of homemade ones that we stock our freezer with every fall. In addition to grated parmiggiano, we encouraged everyone to sprinkle crushed amaretti cookies on top.
I know what you're thinking. Crumbling cookies over a plate of pasta? Our friends seemed surprised as well, but believe me, it's good. The almond flavor adds a sweetness to the lightly spiced pumpkin filling, not to mention that sharp parmiggiano and a buttery sauce taste even better when clingy to crunchy cookie bits. If you're fond of salty and sweet combinations, as I am, you'll particularly like it. It's such a good combination that even Mario Batali grates a couple on top of the Pumpkin "Lune" at Babbo.
Since Daniel had the week off from work, he was in charge of the main course. I pushed hard for short ribs hoping he'd make a recipe I found on Epicurious that combines chocolate and rosemary, but he had his heart set on duck.
Unlike me (and often to my dismay), Daniel doesn't always rely on recipes. He sometimes consults a few and then goes off on his own, mixing and matching ingredients that he hopes will work well together. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't, but this time around, he created a winning combination.
Tired of all the fruity sauces that restaurants pair with gamy meats, he roasted the duck* in a homemade glaze and went a more traditional route with a rich gravy. We all oohed and ahhed in between every bite.
For side dishes, he settled on Wolfgang Puck's braised red cabbage and pearl onions roasted with duck fat inspired by this Tyler Florence recipe.
He tweaked the braised cabbage recipe slightly by adding apple cider in addition to the apple cider vinegar it called for which he thought would have been too acidic. The result? A tangy side dish that paired perfectly with the juicy duck.
The pearl onions were good, but a bit bland compared to the other more vibrant dishes. I liked how they crisped up a bit after being roasted in the duck fat and didn't mind their delicate flavor, but Daniel thinks roasted potatoes would have worked better.
For dessert, I decided to make a tarte tatin**, the one exception to my rule of diligent recipe reliance (thanks to my friend Chris who taught me how easy it was to make one at an election party two years ago -- my only fond memory from that painful night). However, this time around, I prepared the apples using a tarte tatin recipe that Molly recently posted, and also asked Mark and Allison to pick up the bottle of Tokaji that she recommended serving alongside each piece.
My final product didn't look nearly as beautiful as hers, but it still tasted pretty darn good. On the side, I served vanilla ice cream and my favorite companion to tarte tatin: thick, 2% Greek yogurt which helps cut the sweetness quite a bit. The Tokaji was a nice fancy touch, though I think after such a heavy meal, a dessert wine wasn't really necessary. I think it'd be best enjoyed with the tart after a lighter meal, or just the two together as a midday treat.
As much as I like to try out new recipes, I think this entire meal would be perfect for a food bloggers dinner, preferably in the fall. I'd invite Anne from Good American Housewife, Andrea from Madison & Mayberry, Luisa from The Wednesday Chef, Molly from Orangette, and their signifcant others Fred, Ryan, Ben and Brandon as well. And then I'd add that dinner to my ever-growing list of things I need to write about.
*Since Daniel's duck was so delicious, I asked him to try and recount what he did for me. Here's the basic gist. He bought two ducks (he doesn't remember how many pounds they both were, but I'd say about 3lbs each) which he trimmed of extra fat, rinsed, patted dry and then rubbed generously with kosher salt and black pepper. In our food processor, he made a glaze by combining sherry vinegar, stone ground mustard, currant jelly, a hunk of ginger, three cloves of garlic, salt, four sage leaves and some orange juice (to help it from becoming too thick). He cooked the duck breast side up in a roasting pan (with a little bit of water in it to keep the drippings from burning since this was the same pan he used to make gravy) at 350 degrees for approximately 3 hours, turning and basting them with the sauce every 30-45 minutes. To make the gravy, he skimmed off the fat (about a pint in total, though some was used to make the onions), then deglazed the drippings with port and red wine, and thickened it with some flour.
**I never use puff pastry for my tarte tatin and instead prefer to make a crust from scratch. It's really easy. Cut up 1 stick of chilled butter (I keep a few extra sticks in the freezer at all times) into small pieces and put in a food processor with 1 cup of flour. While pulsing, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup ice cold water until the mixture forms a ball. Flatten the ball into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or so rolling it out.