Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

As my birthday approached, it was time again to get to work preparing my annual 5-course birthday dinner. This has been tradition for 5 or 6 years now, and I am definitely getting better at selecting a menu that won't result in too much of a crazy-hectic time in the kitchen. My friends Lisa and Will drove up for dinner as well as to be my prep wing-men, and in the end I'm pretty sure I couldn't have pulled this off without them. First up: a trio of passed hors d'oeuvres.
The first of these was Salmon Tartare with Red Onion Crème Fraîche on a Savory Sesame Tuille (basically using the French Laundry recipe for their famous cornets, but saving myself the finger-burningly tedious rolling process by making flat tuille wafers instead of cones). These were very rich but also very delicious.
The second hors d'oeuvre was Grilled Pancetta-Wrapped Peaches (a slice of a yummy summer peach and a basil leaf wrapped in pancetta and cooked on the grill). I lack the proper temperament for dealing with peaches (the peeling, the removing of the stone...), but Lisa was kind enough to take the reigns on this dish, and it turned out amazing. The recipe called for sautéing the wrapped peaches in olive oil, but that seemed like a pretty stupid thing to do so we threw them on the grill instead, which added a lovely smokiness. This will definitely be added to the list of favorite summer appetizers.
The final starter was the Emily-style classic, Fava Bean Crostini (fresh blanched fava beans and fresh ricotta on grilled baguette slices with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt), which were light, fresh, and delicious. Yay, summer fruits and veggies!
In an effort to avoid people being way too full by the end of the meal, the soup course was Clear Gazpacho Shots. These are something I had several years ago when my brother took me to Quantum in Santa Barbara (back when it was an awesome restaurant) for my birthday. I wrote to Gourmet magazine to request the recipe, and a few weeks later I got a copy of it in the mail. They never published it (probably thinking most of their readers couldn't be bothered to do the 2 days of prep), but it's become one of my favorite palate-cleansing soups. It's a clear liquid, but packed with the essence of all the fresh veggies you would find in a typical gazpacho. Yummy (and pretty)...
The salad course was a Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Feta, Red Onion, and a Balsamic Vinaigrette. This is another dish where Lisa took charge (while I dealt with some last minute prep for the main course), including having brought some awesome arugula from her home garden. None of us were really sure how this was going to turn out, but it was really quite delicious. I got a nice barrel-aged goat cheese at Russo's and luckily managed to select a really ripe and delicious watermelon. The peppery arugula, juicy sweet watermelon, tangy goat cheese, and tart balsamic all married beautifully. This was a really nice summer salad.
To pace ourselves before the main course, I served up some Strawberry-Basil Sorbet, which is one of my favorite healthy homemade frozen desserts.
The main course was a dish I had practiced (and posted about) a couple weeks ago: Citrus-Marinated Salmon with a Confit of Navel Oranges and Pea Shoot Coulis. This turned out even better this time around, and was by far the star of the show. I already spoke about it quite a bit in my other post, and this is getting long, so I'll just say: Wow. This was awesome.
Dessert was Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte, which I have also posted about previously. This is probably my favorite chocolate dessert EVER, in part because it is so very easy to make.
All in all it was a really great night, in part because of the fact that I'm friends with such totally awesome people. Funny how old 30 sounds when you're 15 years old, and how not-old it actually feels when you get there...


Max Power said...

Can I simply say I'm jealous? I'm glad you had such a great birthday. There's something so satisfying about cooking a big, complex meal and serving it to others.

emmo said...

Wish you could have been here... =)

Some people think I'm crazy for doing so much "work" on my own birthday, but I agree with you that it's really satisfying to throw a bunch of kick-ass food on the table for your favorite people...