Friday, August 17, 2012

Vegetarian Wine Dinner

Each August, we hold our annual Harvest Dinner to celebrate the hard work of Beth and Gene Nowak at Mayfair Farm. Beth and Gene supply the vast majority of produce to the restaurant and this is our way of saying "Thank you!" for all that they do for us and for our community. The dinner is made, as much as is feasible, exclusively from products from their farm. And because they produce no meat, the dinner is vegetarian.

This year, our dinner was almost entirely vegan although that wasn't a criterion in designing the menu. It was an artifact of our taking a tour through Asia with our dishes. This was our seventh Harvest Dinner and after working with the same vegetables and fruits each August with the same American/Western European mindset, we needed to do something entirely different. And so we embarked on a tour of Asia.

Melon Soup with Lumpia
Filipino Melon Soup with Lumpia. The soup is made from cantaloupe and cucumber and seasoned with a few aromatics and a touch of chile. The lumpia are filled with a mixture of red and green cabbage, onions, green onions, and carrots seasoned with soy sauce.

Vegetable Satay with Peanut Sauce
Vegetable Satay with Peanut Sauce. We marinated strips of eggplants, yellow squash, and green squash in soy sauce and garlic, then grilled them. When cool, we threaded them on skewers in the manner of satay. The plate is finished with a peanut sauce (natural peanut butter, hot water, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sambal oelek, palm sugar, and a lot of lime juice to balance).

Building the Eggplant Bánh Mì

Eggplant Bánh Mì
Grilled Eggplant Bánh Mì. We decided since we were doing tasting portions for a crowd to build our bánh mì on grilled focaccia for ease of handling. The large eggplants were sliced; marinated in a slurry of kaffir lime, Thai basil, cilantro, ginger, and garlic; then grilled. We have developed our own style of dressing bánh mì: we first brush the bread with the same slurry that we marinated the eggplant in and then we drizzle the bread with a sweet and spicy chile sauce that we make in house. The layers are pretty traditional: cucumbers, lots of cilantro, and carrots. We don't pickle our carrots in any way.

Soba. One of the beautiful things that we got from Beth was a haul of cheese pimientos, red peppers so called because pre-annato they were used to color orange cheese. Another was some really pretty broccoli. For some reason, they both triggered visions of soba in my head. So here we have buckwheat noodles, green onions, peanuts, broccoli, cheese pimientos, and white sesame seeds in a dressing of rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil.

Green Vegetable Curry on Thai Fried Rice Cake
Green Thai Curry. Curries are never beautiful dishes, but they are so fragrant and so delicious. We made a classic Thai fried rice by first frying a shallot-cilantro-Thai basil paste in oil and then frying the vegetables and rice. Then we added egg to the cool fried rice and made rice cakes from that, cakes that we subsequently re-fried. On top is a curry of a eggplant, squash, the broccoli stems from making the soba, yellow peppers, and cherry tomatoes. The curry paste we made very heavy on kaffir lime both for color and for fragrance. We finished the curry with huge handfuls of cilantro and Thai basil leaves. The tricky part of this dish, because it is vegetarian, was getting the flavor just right without the use of fish sauce.

Plum Clafoutis
Plum Clafoutis. This is another in a series of experiments in making gluten- and dairy-free desserts. To give our clafoutis an Asian feel, we made it with rice flour and coconut milk. Quite delicious if I do say so myself and really wonderful when paired with an Orvieto Amabile.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Another Tasting

With a menu that changes every night and tastings happening all the time, the only way that we can remember what we cooked is to document it here. Sorry if we are boring you with all these pictures!

Tribute to Summer
Tribute to Summer. When squash blooms and tomatoes are in season, we just have to serve them. We have waited patiently all year for them and now is the time to celebrate them. On the left of the plate is a squash bloom stuffed with grated squash that we have cooked down for hours with heavy cream and seasoned with dill, feta, and basil. We beer batter the bloom and lightly fry it. Served with two goat cheese mousses: one with pesto, the other with sun-dried tomatoes.

On the right you see slices of fresh tomato, fried green tomato, and fresh mozzarella that we make in house each day. I still haven't figured out how to photograph these long plates so that they look good. Sorry, I'll stick to my night job.

Rockfish with Corn Chowder

Rockfish with Corn Chowder. Finally, big rock season opened on Long Island and we were able to get the first rock (striped bass) in months. Rockfish is the king of the American table for good reason and although I am very happy that the fishery is so tightly controlled, it means that we go long periods (spawning season in the summer especially) without being able to get any. We used this beautiful 15-pounder to showcase our crop of new fingering potatoes, white corn, and my new batch of house-cured pancetta. I was so disappointed with the commercial pancetta that we have been getting that I started curing my own from Berkshire pork bellies and the end result is so good that we are never going back to commercial pancetta.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Rabbit
Rabbit?!? That doesn't look like rabbit! We're guilty of a little food trompe l'oeil here in that we have taken rabbit and made it look like a steak. Our rabbit farmers are almost drowning us in rabbits this summer and we are constantly looking for ways to use them. In this case, we braise the rabbits in white wine and herbs, debone them, cook the braising liquid down with cream, sauté some mirepoix, and mix the rabbit, sauce, and veg and let it chill in the cooler. Then we form the chilled rabbit into little steak-like patties and wrap all sides with prosciutto. Served on a bed of carrots, leeks, the last of the early peas, and brussels sprouts petals finished with a splash of rabbit stock and cream. Off the hook good!

Scallop-Stuffed Morel, Corn Crème Caramel, Pork Belly Jus
Morel. We're having a weird year this year in that we're able to get beautiful morels all the way up into August when we should have switched over to chanterelles some weeks ago. Don't knock it. Morels have chanterelles beat hands down. This is admittedly a dish that is a little bit out there but I think all the flavors work well together. The morel is stuffed with a scallop and chive mousse, so you get a sweet oniony contrast to the crispy earthy morel, floured, egg washed, floured and lightly fried, then oven-finished. The morel is sitting on a classic crème caramel—that's right, a classic dessert—made from a white corn custard flavored with chives. The custard is totally savory, only the dark caramel on top adds a touch of sweetness, other than the natural sweetness of the corn. The chives echo the chives in the scallop mousse and the caramel contrasts with the naturally salty pork belly jus. The jus is the good stuff left over in the bottom of the roasting pan when we finish cooking the pork bellies for our regular menus. We have thinned it to reduce the salt level and fined it with egg whites to clarify it.

Eggplant Purée, Pork Belly, Quail Egg
Pork Belly. Almost no menu here is complete without pork belly. This dish is a blatant rip-off of the Turkish classic Hünkar Beğendi, eggplant purée topped with lamb. The eggplants were grilled, puréed, and mixed with a classic Mornay sauce made with hard sheep's milk cheese. Topped with crispy pork belly and a poached quail egg. Just sinful!

Lamb Loin, Tomato Salad
Lamb Saddle. While we were over in the Mediterranean, we also took a stop in North Africa. We had just got a lamb in, so I boned out the saddle and marinated the whole loins in ras el hanout, sumac, and touch of smoked paprika. The loins were simply grilled to rare, sliced, and fanned over a salad of fresh cherry tomatoes, house-cured preserved lemons, Niçoise olives, fresh chickpeas, mint, tomato vinaigrette, and a touch of hummus to bind the salad.

Panna Cotta with Blackberries and Anise Hyssop
Panna Cotta. Down on the plate you see a ribbon of three flavors of panna cotta: blackberry, apricot, and blueberry, three of the most abundant fruits right now. The plate is garnished with a little quick blueberry jam, apricot coulis, oat and sunflower seed granola, crème anglaise, honey-lime blackberries, and anise hyssop.