Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!


We welcomed in 2012 in our customary manner – by preparing a nice meal and ringing in the New Year on East coast time. Since we live in San Francisco, this meant that we could be in the arms of Morpheus by 10pm. Party monkeys we are not.

After several large meals over the holiday period we wanted to make something lighter, and crab salad leapt to mind. Our recipe was based on Thomas Keller’s crab salad from Bouchon – crab meat with a mixture of fresh herbs (we used parsley and tarragon), some crème fraiche and a little lemon juice/zest:


You’ll notice that the crab is sitting on a pale yellow hockey puck, which is actually cauliflower panna cotta. I’m pleased to report that it had neither the consistency nor the flavor of a hockey puck, and was a light though luxurious counterpoint to the crab topping. Here is the Monkeyshines recipe:

8oz cauliflower
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 eggs
salt and white pepper

Chop the cauliflower into large florets and roast at 375°F, loosely covered in foil, for about 30 minutes until soft, then puree together with the cream and eggs with a handheld blender until smooth. Press through a sieve to make sure that it’s creamy with no lumps, then spoon into buttered ramekin dishes. Bake in a water batch at 350°F for 40 minutes until set, then remove from the oven and cool. Watch nervously as you invert the ramekins over your serving platter and hopefully remove in one piece!
We made two other salads to accompany our dinner: cucumber/pasilla pepper, and carrot/chick pea:

For the carrot and chickpea salad, we went back to Bouchon cookbook. To be honest, the chickpeas were a bit more fussy than we normally make (involving cooking them in stock with various vegetables and a bouquet garni – I’m not convinced they were that much better than boiling in water). However, lightly cooking the julienned carrots in a skillet with a sprig of thyme, bayleaf and clove of garlic imparted wonderful flavors to the whole salad.

The cucumber salad was based on a recipe that we’ve made previously during one of the Daring Cooks challenges that we did a year ago (Poaching with the Daring Cooks.) The original recipe apparently came from the Top Chefs cooking show, although we simplified it somewhat, to no detriment in our estimation. The mixture of cucumbers, pasilla peppers, lime zest and spice-infused oil seems a bit weird until you taste it – it all comes together wonderfully.
Finally, the orange pools that you can see in the photos above are orange vinaigrette – also Thomas Keller-inspired. I think it was nice, but perhaps not essential to the overall dish. Besides, I think the texture and plating of this element need some work: somehow it doesn’t look like the artful swooshes that adorn restaurant dishes.

All in all, a fine way to bid farewell to 2011, all washed down with a bottle of Acacia 1995 brut sparkling wine. Onwards to 2012, and a Happy New Year to our readers – both of you Smile!

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