Did I just peak? Is it all down hill from here? Should I just leave on a high note (a la George Costanza)? Is this is the end of Nowenteringflavorcountry as we know it?! All that and more will be answered….right now. [Yes. Probably. Probably. No, I’d be too bored.]
Well my friend Lindsey came this past weekend, and we made “Fancy Dinner” to a standing ovation. This is literally the best meal I’ve ever made before. It took 2 people, 4 hours, 2 grocery stores, the soundtracks of Les Miserables, Book of Mormon, and West Side Story…and more money than I’d care to admit (I’ll explain shortly). Worth it. Worth every crumb.
But for a monumental meal like this, how do we select the recipes? Beef? Pasta? Seafood? It was a long and difficult decision, but we decided on 4 tasty components to this meal:
Scallops from Stephanie Izzard’s Girl in the Kitchen (scallops, goat cheese, and asparagus…what’s not to like?)
Pumpkin Bread Pudding – Martha Stewart
Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, Apple, and Gruyere Bites – Table for Two
Armed with our new recipes and a fool-proof grocery list, we hit the road and landed at Plum Market, where we were to buy the “fancier” items, such as scallops, sorrel, and wine. Now, I’ve never bought scallops before, so I assumed they weren’t available at most stores because I just made it up in my head, so of course it was true. The scallops at Plum Market were….$25/lb. Yikes. The bay scallops were $14.99/lb, but who likes bay scallops?! Lindsey took me aside and the following conversation took place:
Lindsey: isn’t there another place we can buy scallops? (meaning “anywhere, absolutely anywhere else, let’s not pay $25/lb for these scallops”)
Erica: this is the place to get seafood (meaning “to my knowledge this is the ONLY place to get seafood”)
Apparently she thought my decision was a testament to my elevated preference in seafood quality, when really it was my ignorance in the scallop marketplace. Lindsey, you know I value my sweet sweet money over any quality of anything ever. So rather than getting the 12 Scallops which the recipe called for, we asked for 8 to be thrifty. Well, guess how much those 8 scallops weighed: 0.94lbs. Goodbye $25…
Once we were at Kroger (to get the cheaper staples like onions, puff pasty…etc), she pointed at the seafood counter at the $15/lb scallops they had
Erica: they sell scallops?! (meaning: “they sell scallops?!”)
Lindsey: yeah, every place sells scallops, that’s why I asked (meaning: “god dammit Erica”)
In my defense, the ones we got are the largest Scallops ever. We called them baby fists all night (and will continue to do so until it’s not funny anymore, which I don’t see happening anytime soon). So after trying to FORGET THE EVIL that just occurred to my wallet, we popped open a delicious Famega
Started prepping the vinaigrette
…and got down to culinary business. What’s cool about having 2 people cooking? Someone to stage shots, and someone to shoot them! (see the photo above, I’m sure you were thinking “someone is pouring the sweet sweet honey into the food processor AND taking the picture? Witchcraft!” You’re wrong, it was just 2 sets of hands). So rather than making our tasty onion-mushroom-apple-gruyere tarts first to use them as an actual appetizer, we just made EVERYTHING at once (except the bread pudding…that we did wait till the end, but it took about 30 seconds of effort, so it doesn’t really count). One of the more time consuming items was definitely the Gnocchi. We took turns working on that throughout the cooking
While these little pillow-y darlings were being made, we began the Mushroom, Onion, Apple, and Gruyere Tarts (is it possible to hear that without drooling?). I love this recipe because it’s one of those “hmmm, I could have come up with this, but I never would”. Basically you just sauté everything (add a little sugar and butter for the apples), and mix it with the grated gruyere. Meanwhile, cut up the puff pastry into squares, wash with egg, and top with your sauté mixture. Bake. Cool. Destroy.
And now, on to the main event. We have the vinaigrette nice and emulsified, so it’s time to get down to business: goat cheese-potato puree, seared scallops, toasted almonds, and asparagus bacon “hash”. Sidenote: As a restaurant server, Lindsey has encountered many a funny story (as have we all), but one sticks out most in recent memory, mainly because it has to do with goat cheese. The woman at her particular table was asking about an appetizer, and said the words “oh GHOST cheese! I love GHOST cheese!” to which a mortified Lindsey had to make the ultimate decision: to correct her, or say GHOST cheese the rest of the meal. She chose the latter. Now, just try to say ghost cheese. It does NOT roll off the tongue. So clearly, that’s what we call it now. All the time. Especially during the making of this meal. But let me break it down per item:
Toasted Almonds: put in oven for about 5 minutes, boom toasted. I left them in for about 7 minutes, so they were veeeery toasted (as you’ll see in the big reveal photo).
Goat Cheese-Potato Puree: peel and cube potatoes. Boil until fork-tender then mash. Meanwhile, over low heat combine goat cheese and heavy cream until they are melted into one another. Mix potatoes and cream/goat cheese together and season with salt and pepper. Decadent.
Asparagus and Bacon “Hash”: We used regular old bacon for this rather than ham hocks, because it’s easier/cheaper/less intimidating/cheaper. Cut asparagus into 1/3 in pieces, throw bacon and asparagus into pan and sauté up. Delicious.
Scallops: RIDICULOUSLY easy! Heat olive oil in pan over high heat. Season scallops with salt and pepper, and sear on one side for 1 minute. Turn heat to medium and turn scallops over and sear on other side for 2-3 minutes. Done.
To assemble, place puree on bottom of dish. Top with 2 scallops. Top with bacon-aspargus hash. Drizzle sorrel vinaigrette over plate. Top with (over) toasted almonds. Try to set aside 90 seconds to take a photo. Be amazed at the pure awesomeness that’s in your mouth.
Now that all the components are in place it is time to feast. Imagine a Dothraki wedding, but with more carnage…and sex. But mainly just the shoveling of food and wine into mouthes.
While we were enjoying ourselves, the pumpkin bread pudding was in the oven, baking to perfection (and by perfection, I mean a tasty but dry consistency…not enough liquid, but add enough caramel sauce and you’re right as rain…and coincidentally making it rain).
And thanks to my sweet and beautiful dishwasher, there wasn’t even too much cleanup to be had when we were done. Just very uncomfortable stretching of the insides. How will I top this? Perhaps Thanksgiving will be my gimme…