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Dinner party

  • 28th Nov, 2004 at 7:39 PM

Tonight, daryl1981 and I had a couple of people over for dinner. Now, I used to give dinner parties once a school term that were quite successful, and I realised that I hadn't done one in a long time.

So we had Damian, Allison, Peter Zion and Graciella over for dinner. I spent Friday doing the desserts, then on Saturday we went to Graciella's butcher to pick out some beef, and today I went full out and finished off my cooking. Actually, this was the first time that everything came together on time, I brought everything to the almost-done state, and just finished it off five minutes before it should have showed up at the table.

Everyone showed up on time, and so dinner progressed quite smoothly. I had a menu of "Beef Served Three Ways." We started out with Beef Consummé, which was actually quite disappointing compared to how much work I put into clarifying it. I won't be making that dish again anytime soon. Then, I brought out Asian Beef in Lettuce Pouches, which was recieved quite well, although I didn't have enough lettuce leaves to go around. After that, Strip Steak with Roasted Vegetables was the main course. Surprisingly, everyone else wanted their steak cooked medium, so I was the aberration in having mine done blue. For the steak, I made a compound chimichurri butter, because I remembered that Graciella introduced me to chimichurri at Peter's hot-smoking barbeque party. Finally, for dessert, I had Maple Crème Brulée. This was slightly disappointing, because my blowtorch seems to have disappeared, and so I had to resort to using the broiler. This made my custards all hot instead of cold, but other than that it tasted fine.

Asian Beef in Lettuce Pouches

  • 1 head of lettuce
  • sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup of whole roasted peanuts, unsalted
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 500g lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon of grated ginger root
  • five spices powder
  • pepper
  • soya sauce
  • chile garlic sauce, optional

Try to buy a head of lettuce with strong leaves and a generally round shape. Slowly peel leaves off the lettuce, trying to achieve little bowl shapes. Wash the leaves well in cold water, and spin them dry. Stack them on a plate and put aside.

When you slice your scallions, keep the whites and the greens separate. You should chop the whites finely, and the greens coarsely.

If you were only able to get pathetically roasted peanuts, heat up your oven to 200ºC, generously measure your peanuts into a cast-iron skillet, and throw them in the oven. Every three minutes, take them out and stir them about, until they develop a rich brown colour, and glisten with their own oil.

Coat the bottom of a hot wok in sesame oil. Add the garlic and scallions and lightly fry until they soften. Add the beef, and break it up. You don't have to break it up very well, as it will fall apart itself. Add the ginger and mix it in. You should keep tossing the mixture in the wok until it crumbles and only a shade of pink remains. At this point, add five-spices powder and pepper to taste. Then drizzle in some soya sauce and toss the mixture, this will brown and give it a nice colour.

Finally, take it off the heat and toss in the chilli sauce and the peanuts.

To eat, you assemble the dish like this. Take a lettuce leaf in the palm of your hand and spoon the beef mixture into the leaf. Wrap the leaf into a little pouch and eat with your hands. It's great fun, and the texture is quite nice.

Serves 6.

Strip Steak with Roasted Vegetables

Actually, not all of the vegetables here are roasted. So the name is quite a misnomer. I could have been all pretentious and listed the ingredients of the dish like some fancy restaurant, but the better part of modesty prevented me from doing this.

Caramelized Onions

  • 1 medium red onion
  • olive oil

Slice the red onion into rings, about 1cm thick. Then, cut the rings apart so that they are long strips of onion. Place them into a skillet on low heat and slowly fry in oil, turning constantly. Remove them from the heat once they are a nice golden brown, and taste like candy.

Serves 6.

Sautéed Green Beans

  • 750g green beans
  • salt
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 knob of butter

Wash the green beans and remove their stems. Have a bowl of ice water on hand, and then set a pot of water on the stove to boil. Add a generous amount of salt and oil to the boiling water, and then blanch the green beans in small batches. Use a strainer to fish them out once they've turned a bright green, and plunge them into the ice water to arrest the cooking process. When it's time to serve them, add a knob of butter to a hot skillet, and when this gets hot, add the beans. Toss them about, and then add a little water, turn down the heat and cover. The steam will heat the beans up.

Serves 8.

Honey-Glazed Carrots
  • 750g baby carrots
  • 1 knob of butter
  • 100ml honey

In the same pot of boiling water, add your carrots. After five minutes, or just before they stop being crunchy, strain out the carrots and plunge them into ice water. When it's time to serve them, melt the butter in a non-stick pan. To this, add the honey. Let this reduce a little on medium heat, and then toss in your carrots. Move them about in the pan until the carrots are hot. They should be covered with a light syrup.

Serves 8.

Roasted Potatoes

  • 1 tablespoon of peppercorns
  • 30ml dried rosemary
  • salt
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 12 baby potatoes

In a blender, add peppercorns, rosemary, and salt to taste. Running on low, drizzle in olive oil until it becomes an emulsion. Toss halved baby potatoes in this mixture, and set them in the oven at 200ºC. Roast for about 10 minutes, and then flip them over for another 10 minutes.

Serves 6.

Chimichurri Butter

  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
  • 3 shallots, chopped coarsely
  • 1 bunch parsley, leaves
  • 125ml butter, unsalted
  • salt

This compound butter is also made in the blender. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over low heat, and fry your garlic and shallots until they have a nice mellow flavour. The idea is to cook out the harsh flavours. Meanwhile, wash and rip off the parsley leaves. At this point, you can melt the rest of the butter in the skillet, and pour the contents into the blender. Running on a low speed, slowly add the parsley until the result looks like pesto. Add salt to taste. Pour it out into a bowl, and cool in the refridgerator. After the butter is almost hard, lay out a film of clingwrap, and spoon the mixture in a strip in the center. Then, fold over the clingwrap and roll into a log. Refridgerate overnight.

Keeps for about two weeks.

Strip Steak

  • 50ml soya sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • generous amounts of cracked black pepper
  • 4 strip steaks

This is easy. Just trim off any excess fat on your steak, which you have bought from a reputable butcher. I got some strip steak from a little butcher near Jean-Talon market, that Graciella showed me. They have nice Latin-American owners who were too happy to see her. Make sure your steaks are at least 2cm thick. In a small metal bowl, add the soya sauce, garlic and pepper. Toss the steaks in this mixture, and let it marinate overnight in the refridgerator.

Cook in a hot cast-iron skillet. I like mine blue, so I just sear all the edges, but you can cook yours to the doneness that you like. After it's cooked, let it rest for about a minute, and then spoon some chimicurri butter on the surface.

Serves 8.

Maple Crème Brulée

  • 500ml whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 150ml maple syrup
  • white sugar

Get a metal bowl that fits over a metal pot. Put some water in the pot, but not enough to touch the bottom of the bowl. Bring the water to a boil, and add the cream and vanilla to the bowl.

In a second bowl of the same size, cream the egg yolks and the maple syrup with a wooden sppon. Once the cream is at blood temperature, temper it slowly into the egg mixture whilst stirring it vigorously. Put this bowl on the pot of boiling water, and keep stirring. Soon, the mixture will be thick enough to coat the back of your spoon. Take it off the heat, and pass it through a fine-mesh strainer to get the lumps out. Now you've made your custard.

Ladle the custard into your ramekins, and place them in a deep baking dish. Boil a kettle of water, and fill the baking dish half-way up the sides of the ramekins. Place this in a 120ºC oven for an hour. Take them out, and let them cool on the counter before refrigerating overnight.

To serve, sprinkle a layer of sugar on the surface, take your blowtorch and evenly caramelise the sugar. If you've lost your blowtorch, put them in the oven as close to the top as possible, and broil until the top is caramelised.

Serves 4.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
29th Nov, 2004 15:45 (UTC)
Yum! That sounds amazing, like all your dinner parties.

Your blowtorch is in the cupboard on top of the fridge, no?
29th Nov, 2004 15:59 (UTC)
I could not find it in any of my cupboards. I'm afraid that it's been eaten by something, and I'll just have to buy a new one.
29th Nov, 2004 17:24 (UTC)
Medium? Isn't that a crime? At least, medium rare...
29th Nov, 2004 17:39 (UTC)
You mean, at most medium rare. :)
29th Nov, 2004 18:41 (UTC)
Um... Yes!
29th Nov, 2004 19:00 (UTC)
Blue is the way to fly. =)
30th Nov, 2004 10:02 (UTC)
Something smells good
Like the glazed carrots. I stir toasted sesame seeds into it too. Try it.
I'm gonna try your Maple Brulee. Good work fella,
30th Nov, 2004 14:09 (UTC)
Re: Something smells good
I like to do baby carrots in a glaze made from butter and brown sugar. It's caramelicious.
1st Dec, 2004 04:56 (UTC)
You should cook for us in Toronto
Hey! Sounds like your dinner party was a success! Most people I hang out with aren't very talented in the kitchen (i.e. they can actually BURN WATER). Pot luck dinners usually end up being me with my home-cooked dish that I slaved over all day while everyone else either brings salad (store-bought) or something bought from the Meals-to-go section of Loblaws...such disappointing results.

Anyway, you should cook for us when you come to Toronto...maybe make some of that creme brulee (I'm sure Dad's got a blowtorch we could use). I hardly ever get to eat Gwai Lo food anymore. I'm slowly feeling less Canadian and more Chinese...I suppose this is good since we're going to be going to Hong Kong soon. I'm begging for some homemade pasta (I'd make it myself but school and exams always seem to get in the way of my fun. :(

Well, have fun and I'll see you during xmas break!
1st Dec, 2004 07:48 (UTC)
Re: You should cook for us in Toronto
I could do that.

You know, most of the time, I do cook Chinese food at home. But it's actually a lot harder to cook chinese food than it is french or italian food.

Plus, all my friends always ask "what's this?" And peer at the dishes as if I'm going to feed them tripes.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )