This post can be filed under "reasons why it's not always a good idea to try something fancy right before a dinner party." I had this idea a while ago, and the a semi-promptu gathering last Sunday gave me an excuse to try it out. Not very well, as it turned out, but whaddayagonnado. Next time I'll get it right.
Originally it was just going to be parsnip gnocchi, but then I noticed the variety of brightly colored winter produce we had on hand, so it got more ambitious. I steamed the parsnips and blended them with salt and a few drops of vanilla. I roasted a kabocha squash and puréed it with nutmeg. I roasted some beets and whizzed them with a bit of Banyuls vinegar, and lastly I pulled the rest of the purple potato purée out of the fridge. To each of these smoothnesses I added hydrated methylcellulose, doing little quenelle tests as I went to determine the right amount. Once I had (or thought I had) each mixture right, I put them all into individual bags and let them sit while I did some other stuff.
Each vegetable needed a different percentage based on its texture and water content, and for some reason I under-added a lot to the beet and potato mixtures. So when it came time to cook them (piped from a cut corner of the bag into simmering water) and then spoon them into the waiting roast chicken dashi, those two fell apart. So it looked like a clown threw up, but it tasted very good; the whole point of this is that the gnocchi are made almost entirely out of the vegetable, without any egg or flour to change the taste. They dissolve on the tongue like magic flavor pillows. And in my defense, the parsnip and squash ones can clearly be seen to be admirably holding their shapes.
The rest of the meal was better; Gerard brought a ton of fish in various forms. We started with his Basque-style salt cod, which was superb, and then moved on to salmon I broiled with a custom spice mixture and then napped with a blood orange gastrique. To follow, weakfish with the leftover Basque sauce- not far from Vizcaína- and hake in green sauce to complete the Basque themed fish portion of the program. The green sauce was not so traditional; I blended parsley, chives, kale, garlic, and sourdough bread crumbs with olive oil and white wine.
Here's a pic of the salmon, accompanied by John's miso butter-roasted maitake:
Dessert was dueling apple pies from Duncan and Sirkka. The beverage theme for the evening was all Sine Qua Non. We started with our "Whisperin' E," the (I think) 2002 white blend that's usually Chard and Roussanne: just a great bottle of wine, plain and simple. Their whites continue to be my favorites, especially with age. Next up was the 2005 "Over and Out" pinot, the last one they made, followed by a Grenache- one of the newer ones, in the ridiculous bottles (2007?)- and then "The 17th Nail in My Forehead" Syrah which is also pretty brand new. With dessert we had a half bottle of Mr. K Viognier, which I think was 2005. I didn't write any of this down, and John took most of the bottles home for his archive. For all the hype, the reds didn't do anything for us; John's going to sell the rest of his, a decision I support. They're just not that special; I can think of much better ways to get an expensive hangover.