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Reflections on Dinner
Dinner on Saturday was pretty good. Here is a PDF of the menu that I finally settled on.

Friday I shopped and prepared a couple things, specifically the English Summer Pudding and the pasta dough. Saturday started at 6AM when my house keeper came to clean and my cooking prep started at 7AM. I also had to step out to go shopping to pick up the freshest seafood I could. Here was my schedule:
  • Time - Recipe - Task
  • 7:00 - Pasta - Make Pasta
  • 9:00 - Shopping
  • 11:00 - Misc - Mise en Place
  • 11:30 - Clams - Wash
  • 12:00 - Puffs - Make Batter
  • 12:30 - Hollandaise - Make
  • 1:00 - Pancakes - Make Compote
  • 1:30 - Pancakes - Make Batter
  • 2:00 - Salmon - Make Filling
  • 2:30 - Pancakes - Beat Egg Whites
  • 3:00 - Mushrooms - Sautee Mushrooms
  • 3:15 - Duck - Poach Gooseberries
  • 3:30 - Pancakes - Cook Pancakes
  • 4:00 - Duck - Make Sauce
  • 5:00 - Puffs - Prepare Batter
  • 5:30 - Pasta - Boil Water
  • 5:45 - Puffs - Bake
  • 6:00 - Salmon - Make Parcel
  • 6:15 - Duck - Score & Season
  • 6:30 - Clams - Steam
  • 6:30 - Duck - Render
  • 6:30 - Salmon - Bake
  • 6:45 - Mushrooms - Cook Pasta
  • 7:00 - Clams - Cook Pasta
  • 7:00 - Duck - Fry Duck
  • 7:15 - Duck - Bake
  • 7:30 - Duck Greens - Wilt
  • 8:00 - Pudding - Whip Cream
This was a busy and tiring day, but it gave me some good experience in budgeting my time and also in juggling a lot of tasks. For the first time, I used just about every kitchen gadget I have, except for my can opener (that's a good thing!) Here's a partial list of various gadgets and cooking tools I used (not including the mundane stuff like spatulas):
  • Almost every pot and pan that I own
  • Every mixing bowl that I own
  • Every baking sheet that I own
  • Food Processor
  • MicroPlane
  • Salad Spinner
  • Pasta Maker
  • Electric Hand Mixer
  • Citrus Reamer
  • Piping Bag
  • Spider/Sift
  • Knife Sharpener and Steel
  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Spice Grinder
  • Scale
  • Pastry Board, Rolling Pin, Pastry Brush
I got a lot of compliments, more than usual, but honestly I'm still a bit disappointed in a few things. I'm glad people enjoyed it, but I'm always learning more and hope that I'll continue to get better. Here are the things that bugged me:
  • Mushrooms - Caputo's let me down as the crimini, button and portobella mushrooms they had were all sub-standard. Whole foods had better ones but at an outrageous cost that I couldn't justify, hence I ended up with the Japanese mushroom mix from Mitsuwa that didn't end up tasting the way I wanted
  • Duck - This was by far the most expensive single item and it was a lot of trouble tracking down a store that had them in stock (Meeske's Prime Meats in Barrington). I asked for 8 but they could only find 4, but when I looked at the price, I decided that 4 was enough. Next time I should just buy whole duck (frozen at Whole Foods or fresh from Chinatown) and butcher them myself. Then I could render out the fat and make duck fat fries too. Also I left these in the oven too long so they came out medium-well instead of medium-rare.
  • Currant Sauce - This was supposed to be gooseberry sauce but I couldn't find any. Luckily Caputo's had white currants, which even Whole Foods didn't have. Alas, I used an old Smoking Loon Cabernet as a base for the sauce and didn't really like it. I also used a Turkish honey with heavy floral notes that I thought ended up too pronounced in the final sauce. My guests said they liked the sauce but I have to say I really did not.
  • Gougeres - This is a new version of this recipe and I thought they came out a bit pasty and not cheesy enough. I might have to develop a hybrid with the other recipe I've used
  • Mint Hollandaise - I used EVOO instead of regular OO or butter. I felt the olive flavors were a little too strong and interfered with the egg and mint flavors
  • Rhubarb Pancakes - I'm annoyed at my fridge b/c it doesn't get cold enough so the ice cream was way too soft
  • Summer Pudding - I used Shoku white bread from Pastry House Hippo with is extremely soft, but perhaps too soft for a pudding. I should have gotten their Danish Bread which would have held up better and added some more flavor, like the Brioche that Gordon Ramsey suggested as an alternate.
  • Belgian Endive (Chicory) - Apparently these are pretty bitter and sauteing them didn't change that
Of course, there were also some good things:
  • Whole Foods' seafood department was very helpful. They suggested Manila Clams which are smaller than what they had in stock and offered to order some up for me, which I did. They also recommended wild caught salmon which they consider better and cheaper as well.
  • Tom's Farm on Lake (Route 20) in Hanover Park had the most amazing ripe strawberries. When I brought them home, my car and my kitchen were filled with the most lovely smell of fresh, ripe strawberries
  • Despite over-cooking the duck breasts and using an extremely simple spice rub (salt, pepper, red pepper flakes) it came out delicious. Next time I'll get a whole duck which should be cheaper and much more versatile.
  • I'm very happy with the egg pasta recipe from Gordon Ramsey and thought it turned out quite well. I made 2 Kg of pasta and only used one for the dinner so I have a good amount left for future use
  • With the leftover arugula, basil, parsley, Parmagiana Reggiano and some almonds I had in the closet I made a tasty pesto sauce, perfect for my leftover pasta
So, it was quite a busy and tiring weekend but it was good I'm glad my guests enjoyed themselves.
Posted 08/17/2009 10:07 PM in Cooking, Dessert, Food, Recipes, Reviews, Shopping | Total Comments: (13)
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Comments

gadget usin'
No wonder you had so much washing & clean-up to take care of. Nice work staying on schedule, though.
Submitted by Dan on 08/17/2009 11:42 PM



I still ended up behind, I wanted to serve food by 7:00 but it didn't happen until 7:30...
Submitted by filbert on 08/18/2009 06:51 PM


timing
At least you weren't chewed out by Chef Ramsay (or didn't have any points count like in Top Chef) for being a little late. As for falling behind 30 minutes, it takes longer to cook a deep-dish pizza, yes? Half an hour's no biggie.
Submitted by Dan on 08/18/2009 09:42 PM


nprtsyfPfFtY
AFAICT you've covreed all the bases with this answer!
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