There are notebooks throughout our house filled with chicken scratch that, if properly decoded, contain dinner menus. Not dinners that have taken place. No, dinners to come. Not dinners to come in a couple of days. Dinners to come in a couple of weeks.
Now I know what you are thinking. This type of planning is a sign of the seriousness with which I undertake most tasks in my life. Sadly, I must finally lift this veil of misplaced impressive-ness. This excessive pre-planning was a sign of culinary weakness. A condition that, with the help of the bountiful and beautiful New York City farmers markets, I have now overcome!
Dinner this night was planned, for the most part, and how it should be, on the spot. That zucchini looks great — well, zucchini carpaccio it will be! Gosh those carrots and never-heard-of-them-before potatoes! A carrot-potato gnocchi coming right up! Free range antibiotic-free and all other things good meat! Gimme four for an herb crusted filet mignon. (Alright, fine, I knew I wanted to make herb crusted filet mignon going in.) As always, I try to balance fresh veggies with cooked things, starches and proteins, soft and hard textures, wine and wine. Etc.
Let’s start with an old favorite that makes an excellent summer start to a multi-course meal: zucchini carpaccio, taught to me by Vonya. With a mandolin, you slice the zucchini nice and thin, drizzle with high quality olive oil, add toasted pine nuts, parmesan and some freshly ground pepper. That’s it! Finger food.
Next course was a bit of a disaster. Coriander scallops over a corn chowder. Coworker and foodie Tina showed me the menu for a restaurant she was soon to visit, which featured a scallop over a corn soup. I faithfully followed an Epicurious recipe that seemed to get at the same thing, but 15 minutes before my guests arrived I decided I didn’t like how things were turning out. I did a quick corn, chorizo, tomato sautee, added some broth, and used my immersion blender to get to a chowder-y texture. There wasn’t even time to strain, producing a should we use forks? spoons? reactions amongst our diners. Horrifying. The coriander-crusted scallops, recipe here, worked out nice, if a tad salty. And the parsley oil added a nice touch. Good concept, better execution next time. (But it did feel exhilarating to throw caution to the wind like that!)
Carrot potato gnocchi followed for the “pasta” course, using this recipe from Food and Wine. Delicious. Or, as our hilarious dinner guest Tina (different Tina) described them, “orange buttery pillows of goodness.” I used a potato from the market I hadn’t heard of, but that worked quite nicely: LaRatte. For sauce, I did a simple brown butter with fresh garlic chives. I was sad to see them go so quickly, and hopeful that one day I will invent a gnocchi that will automatically reproduce itself.
The grand finale: herb crusted filet mignon over a farro risotto. As readers of the blog will know, I have a thing for crusted filet mignons. This time, with an assist from Tom via Linda, I got the how-to on the herb. First, the meat got a little olive oil, salt and pepper rub. Then a bath in some minced fresh parsley, rosemary, garlic chives, and probably some other stuff I don’t remember. When the farro risotto was right, the meat was seared at high heat to form a nice crust on each side and then cooked in a 400% oven for about 10-12 minutes. Ana Maria told me later that she knew I had done a good job when Javier, an Argentinian who by definition takes his meat seriously, smiled in approval after the first bite.
Just a quick word on the farro risotto. I followed any basic risotto recipe, substituting this much healthier and ancient grain and vegetable stock instead of meat (some habits die hard). It was cheesy goodness that provided a nice contrast to the meat. This tomato, cucumber and sweet onion salad with cumin salt from Food and Wine accompanied.
Lastly, to celebrate Tina’s impending birthday, we plied her with lots of wine and then offered this candle on top of an excellent red currant mini cake courtesy of La Tartine Gourmande prepared by Chez Batiste pastry chef Ana Maria, thankfully back from her baking hiatus. Just to show off, she even threw in some mango sorbet using Mark Bittman’s truly minimalist technique (recipe here). Holla!
All in all, a very nice evening with great conversation and wine, and some important decisions. Tina and #102 know what I mean about that.
Chez Batiste menu
– zucchini carpaccio
– carrot potato gnocchi
– herb crusted filet mignon
– farro risotto
– tomato, cucumber and sweet onion salad with cumin salt
– red currant cakes
– mango sorbet