Tuesday, June 30, 2009

John's Birthday

The garden is really hitting its stride now, offering a wider array of perfect options for organizing a dish around. The beets have been getting me excited, not least because they go with so many different flavors. They're also beautiful. John's birthday party offered me an excuse to monkey around with some of the different directions a beet can go, and try to combine them in an interesting way.

Inspired by the bite of foie and yuzu that came with the daikon-shiso soup at Alinea, I bought some foie to add occasion-appropriate decadence. The jar of fresh yuzu that I preserved Moroccan-style last winter offered the ideal component to go with it: the salt-curing essentially candies the fruit, making for an intensely concentrated flavor.

We had lamb the other night, which I might not post about because the photo is awful, but as a sauce for it I pressure-cooked beets and Kalamata olives with a bit of olive brine. Since there was some of that left, I adjusted it with maple syrup, a drop of vanilla, and some yogurt. A tour of our edible flowers yielded coriander, nasturtium, and lavender, and I picked some chives for a little allium bite. Here's the first try, including a sliver of raw chioggia beet for crunch:

For the final version, I sautéed short pieces of the beet stems in smoked duck fat (plus the fat that rendered off the foie when I seared it) adding a little vanilla sugar at the end. And I put one little lavender flower on each spoon as well. To follow the bite, I made another version of the coconut borscht; it had galangal, kaffir lime, and coconut milk, but this time used dashi as the base for a subtle smoky element that echoed the smoked fat on the stems. Unfortunately, I do not have 16 shot glasses, so we made do with some corn-based plastic cups. Not so elegant, but it was a potluck for crying out loud. I pulled out a 1991 Salomon Undhof Riesling Library Reserve to go with this, and it had a delightful, grapefruity brightness that meshed well with the yuzu and cut through the rich fat.

As always, the food was just beautiful. Grilled sides of Coho salmon and ocean perch, greens, escarole mash, pizzas, cauliflower au gratin, beans, salad- our potlucks cannot be beat. There were many other great wines, including a 2003 Peter Michael Point Rouge, a 1999 Lisini Brunello, a 1998 Barbaresco Rabajà, 2 1997 Super Tuscans that I have plum forgotten, and last of all, by the fire on the riverbank, framing a bracing late-night dip, a 1989 Chevillon Nuits-Saint-Georges "Les Roncières." Summer has arrived.


Heather said...

Food served on spoons is pretentious. There, I said it! You're such a Mr. Fancypants. There, I said that too!

Oh my god, I just heard that Michael Jackson died.

Zoomie said...

Now, I liked the spoon serving idea - nice, neat, different.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Nope, gotta go with Heather there. But I guess for a party, you can be pretentious.

The food looks gorgeous as always.

The Spiteful Chef said...

I love food served on spoons, although I prefer the cliched asian soup spoon method. Only for parties, mind you. And you have to be willing to OWN that pretense. Like, "yeah, I'm pretentious. It's cuz I'm awesome. What of it?"

You've got a case of the post-alinea-stress-syndrome (PASS) where you try to fancify all of your food into intricate and passionate works of art that pair unlikely ingredients with fucking magic. The sad news is that I had it too, and neither one of us is Achatz.

peter said...

Blanche: He Did?!? OMG!!!

If you've got a better way to serve one bite that doesn't involve a CRACKER, I'd love to hear it.

Zoomie: Thanks. It's not so different, though; it's quickly become a catering trope.

Jen: If you had tasted it, you would have sung a different tune. "Thriller", perhaps.

Kristie: Oh, I fully own it. And people like it- they looked like they were watching the world's shortest movie while they chewed. The soup was the happy ending.