Whenever we have people over for dinner I usually get too busy to take photos for the blog. Even though this was my most ambitious dinner ever I was determined to make sure I got decent photos of the dishes so I set up some equipment in the kitchen. This way I just had to grab the camera and take a quick shot or two right before serving. We also had some other people running around taking photos which meant we have some great memories of the evening!
We started with a selection of cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery in San Francisco including a cool Italian water-buffalo cheese called Castica, oysters on the half shell, and vintage Champagne (2002 Bollinger Grande Année and 2000 Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Nicolas-Francois).
Here is something you don’t see much on the blog: a photo of me in action. The first real course was a salad. It is a gussied up version of a simple salad I have served a few times. I learned of combining black olives and oranges a while back from Mark Bittman. It seemed like a strange idea when I first heard it but the combo is wonderful, especially if you sprinkle a little freshly ground fennel seed on top to seal the deal.
In this case I also steeped some bay, thyme, peppercorns, and fennel seed in olive oil and mixed it with the olives the day before to season them. Finally I paired it with a small frisee salad dressed with a sherry vinegar vinaigrette and topped with some thinly sliced radishes. This was paired with a Lazy Creek Riesling from Anderson Valley.
Ten years ago I had another big birthday and I served lobster. I thought it would be fun to return to it. Thomas Keller has a pretty killer way to do this in The French Laundry cookbook. You pour boiling water over the lobsters and “steep” them for only a few minutes. Just enough to free the meat from the shell but not enough to cook meat. This lets you make stock with the shells which is a really cool perk.
Saint Thomas then calls for finishing the lobster in a nice beurre blanc soak. This is perfect for a dinner party because you finish the lobster in a matter of minutes and it is perfectly cooked. Also, you can freeze the leftover butter and use it for things like crab cakes!
Two photos of me in the same entry is a new record. The chefs coat from a couple who came to the party. I have to say wearing it made me feel pretentious but my wife insisted so what could I do. I also have no idea why somebody thought I needed pens in the pocket but I was a bit busy!
Here is the final dish: lobster poached in butter with melted leeks, golden beet puree, and chive oil. Clearly I still need to work on plating but trust me when I say it was pretty darn good. If you have never tried beets with lobster they are quite nice together, give it a whirl! The wine pairing for this was a 2000 Paul Pernot Båtard-Montrachet which was my knockout wine of the evening and why I simply had to do the lobster course. Wow, what a wine!
To be continued…