Every year I host a French Party in celebration of Bastille Day, and this year was no different. Loads of French inspired food, and a few corny French accents to boot. It usually involves alot of preparation, followed by even more drinking, which usually ends in a massive hangover. I’m proud to report that 2010 was no different to any other year....except this year I let Daz help with the dishing process. He did an awesome job at handing out the plates to everyone, but when I asked him to help with the actual food to plate process he didn’t quite listen to me as closely as I had hoped, so some of the dishes looked a bit wonky. Not to worry, they tasted pretty darn fine in the end.
Since this may possibly be the longest post I’ve ever written, I’ll keep my intro short. I prepared a 4 course meal with petite fours to end. I’ll explain the dish with the recipe to follow straight afterwards.
First we had Coquilles Saint-Jacques saisies et purée de petit pois (Pan seared scallops, pea puree, beetroot slices and crispy pancetta). I had a little issue with presentation on this one. I trial the dish 2 times before hand and each time the presentation was different. In the end I went with simply stacked together. In this photo you can’t quite see the pea puree in the background and the crispy pancetta.
PAN SEARED SCALLOPS WITH PEA PUREE
Serves 8 entree size portions
200 gram baby peas
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
3 shallots, finely diced
1 tbsp cream
1 tsp butter
4 thick slices of pancetta
1 Star anise
1 cinnamon quill
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp white sugar
1. Start by poaching the beetroot. In a small pot place the beetroot, star anise, cinnamon quill, sugar and vinegar and fill with enough cold water to just cover the beetroot. Place over medium heat and simmer until the beetroot is tender. Cool under running water. Gently peel the beetroot and thinly slice it.
2. To make the pea puree, boil the peas in some salted water until the peas are just cooked. Drain and keep to a side. In a frying pan melt butter and sauté garlic and shallots. Add peas and then transfer to a food processor. Add the cream and process until a smooth puree forms. You may need to add a little more cream to achieve the right consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. For crispy pancetta, preheat oven to 180C. Slice pancetta into small triangles and place on a baking paper lined tray. Cook in the oven until the pancetta is crispy. 10-15 minutes. Remove form tray and drain on a paper towel.
4. For scallops, season the scallops with salt and pepper, drizzle a little olive oil over the scallops – just enough to coat the scallops. Heat a frying pan until very hot, then add the scallops. A very hot pan is important to get nice caramelisation on the surface of the scallop without overcooking it. Cook for 1 minutes or so on each side, depending on the size of the scallop.
To assemble dish, on a small plate place a quenelle of pea puree, then in front place one scallop followed by a slice of beetroot and then another scallop. Place a piece of pancetta to the side of the scallop.
Next we had Tarte de poireau et Gruyere, Salade de fenouil à l’orange (Leek and Gruyere tart, with a fennel, walnut, curly endive and orange salad). To make my life alot easier I served this course cold. Except I think it would have tasted a little better slightly warmed, just so the cheese was a little softer. Despite my criticism, this was one of my favourite dishes or the night. My pastry was so crumbly and short I was really impressed with myself. There were 3 portions of this tart left over. Daz made short work of them and polished them off while I was preparing for the next course. At least he helped with the shortage on bench space!
LEEK AND GRUYERE TART, FENNEL AND WALNUT SALAD
For Shortcrust pastry (From Gourmet Traveller)
250 gm (2/3 cups) plain flour
190 gm unsalted butter, coarsely chopped, chilled
1 egg yolk
3 medium sized leeks
50 grams Gruyere, grated
50 grams Parmesan, grated
20 grams butter
2 shortcrust lined tart tins, blind baked
For Fennel and Walnut salad
1 fennel bulb, thinly shaved
50 gram walnuts, shelled roasted and roughly chopped
Juice of 1 orange
Yellow leaves of 1 bunch of curly endive
Salt and pepper
For Short crust Pastry
Cooking Time Prep time 10 mins, cook 25 mins (plus chilling, resting)
Makes 2 x 12 cm rectangular tarts
1. Process flour, butter and a pinch of salt in a food processor until fine crumbs form.
2. Add egg yolk and enough chilled water (about 3-4 tsp) and process until mixture just forms a dough (2-4 seconds).
3. Turn pastry onto a floured surface and lightly knead with the heel of your hand until the pastry comes together.
4. Form pastry into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled (2-3 hours).
5. Roll pastry, using a rolling pin, on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thick.
6. Brush excess flour from pastry with a pastry brush, then use pastry cutters to cut lining for individual cases or roll pastry backwards over rolling pin to lift pastry and line large tart case. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest.
7. Preheat oven to 200C. Blind bake pastry until golden (15-25 minutes), then cool on a wire rack.
1. Preheat oven to 170C.
2. Slice leeks into long batons, making sure to only use the white flesh of the leek. In a small frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until leeks have completely softened. Approximately 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Sprinkle the parmesan over the base of the two blind baked tart shells. Layer the leeks over the cheese. Sprinkle the Gruyere cheese over the leeks. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has become golden.
4. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes. Then remove from the tin and allow to cool on a cooling rack. This will ensure that the pastry will not sweat and that it will be very crisp and crumbly.
For Fennel and Walnut Salad
1. In a large bowl add, walnuts, fennel, endive. In a separate small bowl add orange juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil/orange juice to get a nice vinaigrette. Add to the fennel/ endive and toast until all components are covered in the dressing.
To assemble the dish, slice the tart into individual portions. Add to the plate with a little Salad to accompany.
For main we had Rôtir du porc et Puy lentilles a la françaises (Roast pork belly, Puy lentils with a rich red wine and beef sauce, cavolo nero (black kale)). This dish tastes almost a life time to prepare, but I swear every last moment of it is worth the result. The pork becomes so tender with the long cooking time, especially decadent with the really crispy crackling. And the rich puy lentils are a thing to be marveled over. I actually tried to recreate the puy lentils I had a Bistro Vue, I got close – but I don’t care, my version is different but just as nice. I do have one bone to pick though. Everyone at the table got such crispy crackling, mine wasn’t quite as crispy throughout the whole piece. I didn’t need praise at the end of the meal, all I need to do is remember the lack of talking and crunching sounds coming from everyone’s smiling faces.
SLOW ROASTED PORK BELLY
Will make 8 serves
This recipe needs to be started 24 hours in advance
2 kg pork belly
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tbsp chilli flakes
2 tbsp rock slat
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 garlic head cut in half
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 brown onions, quartered
300 mL white wine
150 mL water
1. Wash and thoroughly dry the pork belly. With a sharp knife cut diamond shape cuts roughly 2mm into the pork skin. In a mortar and pestle, add salt, fennel seeds and chili flakes, crush until a coarse powder is formed. Rub this mixture into the skin of the pork belly, making sure to get into the cuts on the skin. Place in the fridge over night uncovered. This process will both flavour and dry out the skin, so it will result in a super crisp pork crackling.
2. Pre-heat the oven to the highest temperature it can go. Season the flesh part of the pork with freshly ground pepper and salt. Transfer to the very hot oven and sear for roughly 1 hr. In this time, you should notice that the pork will take on a very golden colour and the crackling will begin to form.
3. Remove pork from the oven and decrease the temperature to 160C. Transfer pork to a plate and add vegetables to the roasting pan. Add the water and white wine, this will work as a humidifier for the meat while it cooks in the oven, keeping the meat moist. Return the pork to the roasting pan, placing it on top of the chopped vegetables. Wrap the outside of the pork with aluminium foil, leaving the crackling exposed.
4. Cook for 3 hours at this very low heat. At the very end, if the crackling is still not to your liking, turn the grill portion of your oven on for 5 minutes, this will crisp up the remaining moist parts of the skin. The pork will now be very tender, moist with the crackling super crispy.
CAVOLO NERO (BLACK KALE)
Serves 8 small sized portions
2 bunches of black kale
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1. Rinse kale, remove the end 3 cm of the stalk. The stalk can be pretty tough and horrible to eat. Chop into 5 cm long pieces.
2. Heat a shallow frying pan and add olive oil. Throw in kale and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add small splashed of water at a time while flipping the leaves. This will act as a steamer and slowly cook the kale. Since kale is a tougher green vegetable compared to normal cabbage, it may take a little while for it to cook. Continue to cook in this way until the steam part of the leaf has begun soften, about 5 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper.
PUY LENTILS WITH RICH RED WIN SAUCE
Serves 8 small sized portions
For Beef /Pork Stock, makes roughly 2 litres – this can be prepared well in advance and frozen if necessary
1 kilo beef bones
1 kilo pork bones
2 brown onions, quarters
1 garlic head, halved
2 carrots, roughly chopped
half a cup of dried mushrooms
half a bunch of fresh thyme
half a bunch of sage
2 leeks, cut into 3 pieces each
3-4 sprigs of rosemary
5-6 bay leaves
5 white pepper corns
5 black pepper corns
For Puy lentils
200 gram puy lentils, rinsed under cold water
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
2 shallots, finely diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp bi-carb soda
300 mL red wine
400 mL beef/pork stock
For Beef/Pork Stock
1. Pre-heat the over to 230C.
2. Rinse bones under cold running water. Alot of butchers cut their bones with blade saws, so it is very important to remove as much of the bone dust as possible. Place on a baking tray with onions, garlic and carrots. Add a little olive oil and mix bones and vegetables together until they are lightly covered in the oil. Place in the oven and bake until the bones have taken a deep golden colour, roughly an hour.
3. Transfer bones/vegetables to a large pot. Add a little boiling water to the roasting tray and remove as much of the baked on particles on the baking tray. The caramelized flavours of the stock will come from this process. Add the liquid to the stock pot. Add the herbs, peppercorns, leek, and mushrooms to the pot. Cover with plenty of cold water.
4. Place pot over low-medium heat, gently simmer for 6-7 hours. During the cooking process remove as much of the scum that comes to the surface as possible. Continually top the pot up with fresh cold water.
5. Once all the vegetables have almost disintegrated, and the bones have all fallen apart, strain thorough a fine sieve and place in a container. Transfer to the fridge and allow to completely cool. Roughly 2 hours. Once all the fat has settled on the top, remove and discard. The stock can now be used.
For Puy Lentils
1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the lentils and the bi-carb soda. The bi-carb soda will lock in the green and speckled colour of the lentils. Make sure not to add any salt during this cooking process, as the salt will make the lentil skin tough and unpleasant to eat. Cook the lentils until they are tender. Puy lentils remain firm after cooking, they do not become soft like other varieties of lentils. Once they are cooked, drain and keep in an bowl covered with cling wrap. This process can be done well in advance.
2. In a large frying pan over medium heat add olive oil, garlic and shallots. Saute for 2-3 minutes until the garlic/shallots have become soft. Add the carrots and celery and sauté for 2-3 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the beef/pork stock and reduce to a 1/3 of the original volume.
3. Add the lentils and lightly season with a little salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the sauce become very thick and sticky. You can wish to stop the coking process earlier and have a much thinner sauce. At the very end season to taste with salt and pepper.
To assemble dish, place a slice of pork, a little lentils and some cavolo nero on a plate
For dessert we had Crème caramel et poires deux voies (Crème caramel and Pear two ways – poached pear and pear sorbet on a burnt butter shortbread crumb). Apologies for the half eaten dessert, by this stage the wine had taken over and I forgot that I was taking photos. I had quite a bit of trouble coming up with something for dessert. I wanted something that I could prepare in advance, but still looked lovely. In the end I went we a dessert that can almost be called two desserts on one plate. The shortbread crumbs and sorbet was inspired by the awesome pear dessert we had a Cummulus Inc.
CREME CARAMEL RECIPE from Taste.com.au
INGREDIENTS (serves 8)
270g (1 1/4 cups) caster sugar
80ml (1/3 cup) water
375ml (1 1/2 cups) milk
250ml (1 cup) thickened cream
2 egg yolks
55g (1/4 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
2 tbs golden syrup
1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Place the caster sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Boil, without stirring, occasionally brushing down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water, for 3-4 minutes or until golden. Pour sugar mixture evenly among eight 125ml (1/2-cup) capacity ovenproof ramekins. Set aside for 5 minutes or until set.
2. Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer (do not boil). Remove from heat.
3. Place the eggs, egg yolks, brown sugar and golden syrup in a large heatproof bowl. Use a fork to whisk until well combined. Gradually whisk the milk mixture into the egg mixture. Transfer the mixture to a large jug, then carefully pour over the caramel in the ramekins.
4. Line the base of a large roasting pan with a tea towel and fold to fit. Place the ramekins on the tea towel in the roasting pan. Pour enough boiling water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the roasting pan with foil. Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until custards are just set. Remove from oven.
5. Transfer the ramekins to a baking tray and set aside for 2 hours to cool. Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight to chill.
6. To serve, run a flat-bladed knife around the inside edge of the ramekins and carefully turn onto serving plates.
CARAMEL AND BURNT BUTTER CRUMBS
60 grams castor sugar
100 grams butter, cut into small cubes
170 grams plain flour
1. Make a caramel first. Add castor sugar to a small pan and add a few tablespoon of water, just enough to wet the sugar. Heat sugar over medium heat until a dark caramel develops. Make sure not to stir the sugar as it will crystallize. Brush down the sides of the pan during the cooking process with a pastry brush dipped in water, this will stop any sugar stuck to the sides from burning.
2. Add the butter and stir until the butter and caramel form something similar to a butterscotch sauce. Continue to cook until the butter and caramel take on a dark golden colour. This wont take very long at all because the sugar is already extremely hot. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
3. Add flour to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are combined. Turn out onto a clean surface and gently work the dough and form a flat disc. If the butter begins to bleed out too much you can add a little extra flour to soak it up. Wrap tightly with cling film and refrigerate for an hour. Preheat oven to 170C.
4. Crumble the dough into crumbs. Chunky pieces are fine, as they will add texture. Scatter on a lined baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes until the crumbs take on a very golden colour. Make sure to mix the crumbs once or twice during the cooking process as the crumbs on the outer edge will cook quicker.
5. Allow to cool complete and store in an airtight container. Will last about a week. These can also be frozen.
PEAR SORBET AND POACHED PEAR CUBES
Makes roughly 500mL of sorbet and 24 cubes (depending on size)
100 g castor sugar
1 vanilla pod - cut lenthways with beans scrapped or 1 tsp vanilla paste
4 medium sized pears, peeled and cored
1/4 cup honey
150 mL water
1 cinnamon quill
1. Place water, sugar, honey, vanilla bean and cinnamon quill into a medium sized pan. Place over low heat and slowly begin to heat.
2. Place a small ceramic bowl or plate in the freezer. This plate will be used to place the poached pear on, the coldness of the plate will quickly cool the pear after the cooking process, prevent it from cooking any longer.
3. In the mean time, cut as many equally sized cubes from the pear as possible. It doesnt matter if you get alot of thin or oddly shaped pieces of pear left over, as these will all be put in the pot to create the sorbet.
4. Poach the pear cubes in the sugar and honey mixture. The cooking time will depend on the ripeness of the pear. The pear should be soft but still firm in the center. Usually 3-5 minutes should be enough. Sample cubes during the cooking time to achieve the perfect texture. Once the cubes are cooked, place on frozen dish and place in the fridge.
5. Roughly chop the remaining pear and place in the sugar and honey mixture. Cook on low to medium heat until the mixture is reduce by half and the pears are soft but not falling apart. Place on a small baking tray and place in the freezer for 1 hr
6. Once the pears have cooled in the freezer for an hour and the syrup is very thick but not frozen, place the whole lot in a food process and process until a very pale and fluffy mixture forms. This will instantly give you a sorbet mixture. Place the sorbet in an airtight container and return to the freezer until it is required.
To assemble dish. Turn out the crème caramel onto a plate. Directly next to the crème caramel, place a long line of burnt butter crumbs. Place three poached pear cubes next to the crumbs and finally top the crumbs with a quenelle of pear sorbet. Serve immediately.
And to end the meal we had Truffes de champagne et chocolat blanches (White chocolate Champagne truffles, with a crushed pistachio coating). I made so many of these, over 30. I was certain that I would have some left over. I remember only eating one on the night. The next morning in my groggy state I went in search for a sweet fix, the truffles would be perfect. I stumbled into the kitchen to find that one mere truffle was left. I sobbed gently before shoving in my mouth and quickly forgetting my troubles.
WHITE CHOCOLATE CHAMPAGNE TRUFFLES WITH PISTACHIOS CRUMBS
Makes roughly 30 truffles
200 grams white chocolate
3 tbsp of cream (45% fat)
1 tbsp butter
150 grams white chocolate to coat
80 grams pistachios, toasted and crushed
1. In a duble boiler, melt 200 gram of white chocolate, cream and butter. Once the chocolate had completely melted, add the champagne and stir until thoroughly combined. Place cling wrap over the surface of the melted mixture and place in the fridge for 1 hr
2. Roll the chocolate ganache into small 2 cm balls and place on a baking paper lined tray. Place in the fridge to harden.
3. Melt remaining white chocolate, then individually roll the ganache balls in the melted chocolate followed by rolling them in the crushed pistachios. Store in an airtight contain and keep in the fridge. Allow to come to room temperature before eating. Will last for 1 week.
There’s only one thing I truly hate about having dinner parties. And that's dirty glasses. I hate not just washing them, but having to put them away. There’s no wonder I don’t own a complete set of matching glasses, I’m more likely to break them before washing them and putting them away safely.