Tidewater Kitchen - January 2008

An Elegant Dinner for Friends

by

Pamela Meredith-Doyle

   The beginning of the year calls for elegance and indulgence. This menu delivers all of those things and much more. You will begin your evening with caviar and smoked salmon, and then start your dinner with a wonderful winter salad. Your main dish is herbed rack of lamb. It has many steps, but most of it can be prepared ahead. Order the lamb from a butcher who carries New Zealand lamb, and have him french the rack for you.
    Dessert will give you the richness that you deserve on a cold winter night. It is Madeleines that are served like an oyster shell, but from between the two shells, cinnamon chocolate mousse pours out. You can serve it with two dessert sauces on the plate. (The pans can be purchased at Williams Sonoma or any other kitchen store.)
    Use your most elegant china to show off this food. Plate each course on dinner plates so that you have plenty of room to present the food.
Your table should be dressed elegantly, as well. Have little gift boxes of imported chocolates for your guests to take home.
    Keep plenty of good champagne flowing and celebrate with your friends gathered around you.

Caviar and Smoked Salmon Spears
    Fill the endive leaves just before serving for the best flavor. This elegant and simple appetizer is perfect for a special occasion.

6 large heads of Belgian endive, outer leaves removed, and the tender inner leaves separated, then chilled
1½ cups sour cream
4 oz. caviar
4 oz. smoked salmon
¼ cup fresh chives, finely chopped

   At serving time, spoon half of a tablespoon of sour cream onto the pointed end of each endive leaf. Then place either half of a teaspoon of caviar on the leaf or a small round of smoked salmon in the leaf. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

Endive and Watercress Salad
    Make this simple, pretty salad as a wonderful beginning to a great meal.

3 cups radicchio, cored and slivered
3 large Belgian endive, cleaned and separated into leaves
6 large oranges, supremed (remove skin, pith, membranes and seeds)
3 bunches watercress, stems removed
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced

   To serve, arrange the endive in a circle on the plate. Place a mound of the radicchio on the endive with the oranges, watercress, and onion on the top. Drizzle with the Garlic Vinaigrette.

Garlic Vinaigrette
2 t. fresh garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 t. sea salt
½ t. freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup fruity olive oil

   In a small bowl, combine the garlic, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. While mixing, add the oil in a slow stream until thickened. Use at room temperature.

Roast Rack of Lamb with Herb Crust
6 racks of lamb, about 1½ pounds each, frenched
2 cups French bread crumbs
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 T. fresh rosemary, chopped, plus additional sprigs for the plates
2 T. fresh basil, chopped
2 T. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
½ t. sea salt
¼ t. freshly ground pepper
6 T. olive oil
4 T. vegetable stock

   Preheat the oven to 450°. Trim the excess fat from the lamb racks. Place the racks in a roasting pan, bone side down, and roast for 18-25 minutes for medium rare. To test for doneness, insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the lamb, away from the bone. It should register 135°.
    While the meat is roasting, combine all of the remaining ingredients. This can be done up to three hours ahead and set aside at room temperature.
Preheat the broiler. When the racks are done roasting, spread the bread crumb mixture on the racks. Place the lamb under the broiler and broil lightly until browned. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and allow it to rest for about fifteen minutes. Slice rack into pairs.
    Serves 12

   Moughrabiye is a large pea-size couscous that comes from Israel and is the perfect complement to the lamb. Mold the moughrabiye in the middle of the plate. Cut rack into pairs of chops and place two of them on either side of the moughrabiye. Serve smoked tomato jus around the plate. Finish the plate with some sprigs of rosemary for presentation.

Moughrabiye with Mushrooms
    This recipe uses a special kind of large couscous known as moughrabiye. Unless it says it is pre-toasted on the package, you will need to toast it in a dry pan before you cook it.

¼ cup olive oil
2/3 cup chopped shallots
2 T. garlic, minced
4 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
4 cups moughrabiye
1 cup Chardonnay
8 cups roasted vegetable stock
2 T. lemon zest
1 cup vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and diced
½ cup chopped chives
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
12 grilled scallions
Grilled assorted mushrooms for garnish

   Sauté the shallots, garlic and shiitakes in the olive oil until lightly colored. Add the moughrabiye and sauté for two minutes. Add the wine and two cups of the stock and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Add two more cups of stock and cook until the stock is absorbed. Repeat until all of the stock is gone.
    Stir in the lemon zest, tomatoes, chives and cheese. Mold in the middle of the plate, spoon smoked tomato jus around it (recipe to follow) and place the lamb on the sides. Decorate the plate with the rosemary sprigs, grilled scallions, and grilled mushrooms.
    Serves 12

Smoked Tomato Jus
6 pounds of large tomatoes, about 12 tomatoes total
12 large cloves of garlic
12 rosemary sprigs
3 T. balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to season

   Core the tomatoes and stuff each with one sprig of rosemary and one garlic clove. Smoke the tomatoes in a smoker or in the oven on a tray sprinkled with wood chips, at 120°. Smoke them for one hour or until they begin to collapse.
    Remove the tomatoes and take the rosemary sprigs out of them. Place the tomatoes and the garlic in a food processor or blender. Puree the mixture.
    Strain the tomato mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a bowl. Discard the pulp. Add the balsamic vinegar and the salt and pepper to the tomato mixture.
    Warm before using with the moughrabiye. Can be made up to three days ahead.

Chocolate Madeleines with Cinnamon Chocolate Mousse
    This dessert begins with delectable French Madeleines. Chocolate mousse is placed in between two Madeleines. The dessert is finished with a chocolate sauce and a raspberry coulis.

Madeleines
2 T. unsalted butter, room temperature, for the tins
½ cup all purpose flour, for the tins
13 T. unsalted butter
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
12/3 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup plus 1 T. all-purpose flour
½ cup finely ground unblanched almonds
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 T. mild honey

   Coat the tins with the butter and lightly dust them with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the tin aside.
    In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma, it is done. Transfer the butter to a metal or ceramic bowl to stop the cooking. Set it aside to cool.
    Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, stirring frequently. Make sure that the water is just simmering. Remove it from the heat before all of the chocolate has melted. The residual heat will melt it the rest of the way. Set aside to cool.
    Sift the flour and sugar into a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the almonds and set the bowl aside. With your electric mixer beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the almond mixture and combine thoroughly. Stir in the butter and the honey. Finally, slowly add in the melted chocolate.
    Spoon the batter into the Madeleine tins, filling them almost to the top. Refrigerate for fifty minutes to firm up the batter. Preheat the oven at this point to 375°.
    Place the tin in the oven and bake until evenly dark brown and springy to the touch, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven. Sharply rap against the tin to loosen the Madeleines. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Can be made several days ahead and stored at room temperature in an airtight container.

Cinnamon Chocolate Mousse
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1¼ cup heavy cream
½ t. freshly ground cinnamon
1 T. unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa

   Place the chocolate in a medium mixing bowl. In a small saucepan bring 6 tablespoons of the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and add it to the chocolate. Whisk until blended, add the cinnamon, mix thoroughly, and set aside.
    With an electric mixer, beat the remaining cream until it holds stiff peaks. Fold in the chocolate mixture, add the cocoa powder, fold it in, and then set the mixture aside.

To assemble:
Put the mousse in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Place a Madeleine upside down on the right side of a large plate. Decoratively pipe the mousse onto it and then place another Madeleine on the top. It should look like an open clamshell with the mousse in the middle.
Take the raspberry coulis and the chocolate sauce and place each of them in a squeeze bottle. Squeeze a decorative pattern on the plate with each. Dust the plate with cocoa and powdered sugar. Finish with a sprig of mint.

Raspberry Coulis
2½ cups frozen raspberries, thawed
½ cup superfine sugar
¼ cup raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord

   Place the raspberries, sugar and liqueur in a blender and puree until smooth. Press the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Place in a squeeze bottle. Can be made up to five days ahead.

Chocolate Fudge Sauce
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 T. unsalted butter, cubed
2 T. dark rum

   Place the cream in a large saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the cream by half. This will take about fifteen minutes. Stir in the brown sugar, heat and stir until dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolates and the butter, stirring until smooth and the mixture is combined. Stir in the rum.
    Can be made up to five days ahead. Reheat over a double boiler or at fifty percent power in the microwave.

Crusty Breadsticks with Rosemary
1¾ cups warm water (105°)
1 envelope dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1 T. salt
1 T. chopped fresh rosemary or 1 t. dried
4 cups (or more) bread flour
2 T. cold milk
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Cornmeal
12 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 egg, beaten to blend (glaze)
Sea salt (optional)

   Place water in large bowl of electric mixer fitted with dough hook. Add yeast and pinch of sugar; stir to blend. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and chopped rosemary; beat at medium speed until blended. Add 4 cups flour, 1 cup at a time, beating until well incorporated.
    Mix milk and oil in small bowl. With mixer running on low speed, gradually add milk mixture. Increase speed to medium; beat 6 minutes. Scrape dough from hook and sides of bowl (dough will be soft and sticky). Let dough rest in bowl 15 minutes.
    Sprinkle 2 large heavy baking sheets generously with cornmeal.
    Turn out dough onto floured surface and knead until soft and slightly sticky, adding more flour if necessary. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Let dough rest 10 minutes.
    Roll each dough piece between work surface and palms of hands to 12-inch-long rope. Arrange 6 ropes on each baking sheet, spacing apart. Break off rosemary sprigs. Insert stem end of rosemary clusters along top of breadsticks, spacing rosemary 2 inches apart. Using sprayer filled with cold water, lightly mist breadsticks. Let rise uncovered in warm draft-free area until puffy and light, about 30 minutes.
    Position one rack in lowest third of oven and one rack in center and preheat to 450°. Place a pan of water on the lower rack. Brush breadsticks lightly with glaze. Sprinkle very lightly with coarse salt, if desired.
    Place baking sheets on racks in oven. Bake 30 minutes until breadsticks are golden and sound hollow when tapped. Transfer breadsticks to racks; cool. (Can be made ahead. Wrap tightly in foil and freeze up to 2 weeks. Thaw breadsticks. If desired, rewarm wrapped sticks in 350° oven 15 minutes.)  Makes 12 breadsticks.