Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Birthday Meal

This past Sunday, we celebrated W's Mum's birthday with a cosy family lunch.

Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Dashi Jelly & Ikura

To start, a little chilled something based on a recipe from Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook, a book I always turn to when I want to make something special. The soft-set cauliflower cream is topped by a translucent layer of dashi jelly (made by infusing reduced chicken stock with bonito shavings and konbu kelp) in lieu of the gelled oyster juice used in the original recipe. The salty piscine intensity of the salmon roe (you could use beluga instead as called for in the book) somehow brings the mellow roundedness of the panna cotta into focus.

Fresh Egg Pappardelle with Tiger Prawns and Shellfish Essence

When I have the time, I love making these broad hand-cut noodles, which have a fabulous affinity with butter and cream based sauces. Something about kneading the mass of eggs and flour into a supple, silken dough is highly therapeutic, as is cutting the thinned sheets of pasta into long yellow ribbons, their slight irregularity an inevitable (which is not to say un-lovely) mark of the handmade.

This pasta dish is something W and I treat ourselves to when we are feeling self-indulgent. We thought it might be something the family would enjoy too. I am hardly the most organised person around. But the one thing I'm diligent about is replenishing the stash of assorted stocks I make and keep in the freezer - shellfish fumet is one such precious standby. When reduced to a syrupy shellfish essence, it becomes the ultimate finishing touch to bisques and crustacean-based risottos and pasta dishes. In this particular instance, the potent concentrate is flavoured with a touch of saffron and enriched with a little mascarpone, resulting in a velvet textured sauce that's warmly embraced by the porous weave of the flat egg noodles.

Navarin d'Agneau

Another Thomas Keller recipe, this time a comforting slow-cooked dish from Bouchon. The lamb is seared before being braised in a rich veal stock. The vegetables that go into the cocotte with the meat in the beginning are discarded, spent and tired having given their best to the braising liquid and meat. To serve, each type of vegetable garnish (carrots, turnips, potatoes, spring onions, broad beans and peas) is cooked separately to the point of perfect doneness before being added to the stew. As Keller puts it, "It's an excellent way to turn a rustic stew into an elegant dish."

The Concorde

A beloved Gaston Lenôtre classic comprising of chocolate meringue and chocolate mousse layers, from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé (Hermé had started apprenticing at age 14 with the legendary Parisian pâtissier before quickly rising through the ranks). While not necessary, I dressed the cake up with a dark chocolate glaze before scattering on the meringue rods.

23 Comments:

Anonymous Alice said...

Wow...what an absolutely delightful and fantastic meal!! I can't seem to figure out how you found the time to make everything and photograph it so beautifully, all in time to serve to your family...goodness gracious, well done! I'm so used to seeing sweets on your site...it was really neat to see these other things as well.

1:21 am, October 27, 2005  
Blogger Sam said...

Please can I come and live inside your blog?

2:58 am, October 27, 2005  
Blogger Lady Lavender of the Kitchen said...

Wow! I never would have come up with that first one. But Man! does it look tasty!

At my local book store I keep lifting the French Laundry book up, looking at the cost, and quickly putting it back. One of these days I'll have to just justify it even if it is something silly like "it's THE BOOK" : )

7:33 am, October 27, 2005  
Blogger Sam said...

I promise to do the washing up.

7:39 am, October 27, 2005  
Blogger eatzycath said...

cauliflower panna cotta - always thot panna cotta was a sweet dessert, so this caught me off-guard, but what an interesting combination of flavors!

12:56 pm, October 27, 2005  
Anonymous food said...

Crikey! One minute I'm searching the web for things on kitchen utensils, and the next I'm reading this post. I'm not sure that's exactlly what I had in mind, J, but I've enjoyed my visit. Now I'm off to try another search on kitchen utensils.

1:01 pm, October 27, 2005  
Blogger Reid said...

Hi J,

W's mother must have been pleased with such a fabulous luncheon. I know I definitely would have. I'm going to have to buy the Pierre Hermé book that you keep referencing as the desserts look absolutely spectacular.

I have no doubts that they got a lot of help from both the hands in the kitchen and the ones holding the camera. Great job!

1:50 pm, October 27, 2005  
Anonymous Oliver said...

Hi J, Mmmm all wonderful dishes. Especially the cauliflower panna cotta I'm attired in. We've had our first savory panna cotta experience in Spain last year trying an asparagus version of it, so I wouldn't be surprised at all if we loved this one, too. Beautiful photos!

4:14 pm, October 27, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your wondrous posts never cease to amaze me.

I'm with Sam. Do you need a lighting assistant? Mixing bowl cleaner? General drool contributor?

8:44 pm, October 27, 2005  
Anonymous augustusgloop said...

Sorry, that was me. For some reason my comment came up as anonymous.

8:52 pm, October 27, 2005  
Blogger Michèle said...

Hi J, another stunning post! I am in complete awe as to how you do it. You are certainly very inspiring. And I think you actually have more energy than Martha, if thats possible! By the way, my birthday is next week, are you available? ;)

9:01 pm, October 27, 2005  
Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

jocelyn, fantastic. i currently have Thomas Keller's book on my Amazon.com wishlist. Now that you've mentioned it, i'm buying it for sure.

3:44 am, October 28, 2005  
Blogger deborah said...

wow - i doubt you need to build brownie points with your mother in law - but i am sure she would most want to adopt you for creating such a beautiful meal. i wonder if a career in food styling would be perfect for you J - you photos dazzle me every time.

4:16 am, October 28, 2005  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Beautiful meal! Your mother-in-law is one lucky woman. I especially like the idea of the cauliflower panna cotta, and it's stunning with the crown of lush red salmon roe. And way to go with Pierre's Concorde! I was intimidated just looking at it in the book. Was it everything it looks to be?

11:47 pm, October 28, 2005  
Anonymous Amber Amethryne said...

I came across your blog on Obachan's links about a fortnight ago. What I can say is you're such a creative and talented cook, and you've found a new fan in me :)

6:13 pm, October 29, 2005  
Anonymous libertas said...

OMG! the food looks fantastic! And your photographic techniques are very good! Keep those posts and pictures coming!

12:37 pm, October 30, 2005  
Blogger debbs said...

i think i should become your assistant while i still can!
got space for an ex-editorial assistant? you know my organisational skills are very fine-tuned now!

6:51 pm, October 30, 2005  
Blogger obachan said...

Panna cotta with Ikura!! At first it sounded really shocking to me, but when I thought about the taste of cauliflower and dashi, I was convinced that it must be a nice combination. You're so creative and I envy all the people who can enjoy your meal.

4:53 pm, October 31, 2005  
Blogger cin said...

What an impressive meal, J! You actually make your own noodles- wow! I think you MUST be an organised person to do so much cooking and make it look this beautiful all the time.

Btw what camera do you use?

5:22 pm, October 31, 2005  
Anonymous keiko said...

Hi Joycelyn - how gorgeous are they? Your family members are real lucky people :) I especially like the Navarin photo.

6:05 pm, October 31, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi alice, it's a good thing i don't cook solely for myself, or i suspect i might well live on cake breakfast lunch and dinner ;)

hi lady lavender, i took the longest time before finally taking the plunge too...and i haven't regretted it one bit since...

hi sam, you had me at hello ;)

hi eatzycath, it's an unusual combination, isn't it?

hi reid, thanks! pierre herme's book really is a chocolate lover's dream come true...

hi oliver, thanks for dropping by...asparagus panna cotta sounds wonderful!

hi ag, :D you are just the sweetest...seeing as my current kitchen companions (my dogs) can't exactly make conversation, the odd human voice or two in the kitchen might do my general sanity some good...

hi michele, thanks for your kind words...re: martha; i'm still missing a birkin, amongst other things...for you (and a trip to paris) sure ;)

hi dylan, thanks; the book is a real gem...

hi saffron, thanks... i evidently never got playing with my food out of my system ;)

hi melissa, thanks! of the recipes i've tried in the book's cake chapter, i have to say the concorde is fortunately one of those that looks more difficult to make than it actually is. with only 2 elements as opposed to his other more complex constructs, it's maximum impact for minimum effort!

hi amber, thank you for dropping by and leaving such kind words...glad you like what you see

hi libertas, thanks for visiting, and your kind words!

hey debs, anytime ;)

hi obachan, thanks for dropping by. sounds strange, i know...took me some time to come round to the idea too...

hi cin, thanks for the vote of confidence. sadly, organised i am not. i use a nikon D70s...

hi keiko, thanks for your kind words...the navarin picture is my favourite of the bunch too ;)

6:23 am, November 03, 2005  
Blogger Amy said...

What a treat, to see some photos of your savoury cooking as well. The prawns look especially mouthwatering.

8:52 am, November 03, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi amy, thanks...luckily, the tiger prawns from the market were super fresh that day...

2:20 am, November 04, 2005  

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