M. Andrew Gordon

Archive for the ‘Dinner Party’ Category

Pickled, or soused, salmon

In Dinner Party, Main Dish, Sauces, Seafood, Side Dishes on February 7, 2011 at 8:30 pm

As I went into the planning phase of last Saturday’s dinner, I kept coming back to a common theme: pickling.  It’s been a hot culinary topic of late, with numerous local restaurants offering house made pickles.  I have also been reading Momufuku, the eponymous book by chef David Chang, and there are a number of delicious looking pickle recipes in that book.  Chang is a fascinating chef and a real proponent of pickling.  In addition, I have been spending my spare time at Lena’s apartment reading East Coast Grill’s Chris Schlesinger’s book Quick Pickles which immediately won me over when I read about a pickled rhubarb that is recommended as an accompaniment for soft shell crab.  So pickling has been fascinating me of late.

One dish that I had been thinking about was a soused fish.  Generally, it is a white fish that is braised in a pickling liquid and or fried and then set in a pickle brine for some amount of time.  Neither of these were quite what I was looking for so, after consulting with the good folks at New Deal Fish Market when I was picking up the fish, I decided to brine some salmon, serve it over celery root puree, and top it with salt-pickled cranberries inspired by a recipe in Momufuku.  Sadly, it was so delicious I forgot to take a picture!  The dish was paired with Blue Point Brewing Toasted Lager, a fairly low alcohol lager with a nice crisp hop finish.

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Brunching Presley Style

In Baked Goods, Dinner Party, Pork on January 26, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Blogging is a labor of love, something that is easy to let slide when work becomes busy, commutes turn into hours-long slogs, life takes unexpected twists and turns, or the holidays make everything busy as hell.  In many ways, it’s not unlike the common refrain about diets being hard to hold onto during the holiday season (though rest assured there will be no pseudo-healthy mumbo-jumbo in the pages of JustAddBacon).  In a nutshell, it is just easy to get distracted from the mission behind blogging.

Since my last post, way back in dying days of autumn, there has been some good cooking that could have made its way on here.  Off the top of my head, I created a savory pumpkin bread pudding, a cranberry ice cream, a pork-plantain stew, savory baked French toast, beef and bean stuffed shells, and a host of dishes for a Tiki-themed dinner party* that were worth blogging about.  Lena and I also ate some awesome dishes, notably half a pig’s head, and had an amazing dinner at East Coast Grill.  There was also a trip to Kentucky that allowed me to delve into some old family recipes.

This past Sunday saw a litany of good food to blog about.  In my ongoing effort to host at least one sizable dinner party per month, I had shaken things up and decided a brunch would be a fun diversion.  What would be even more fun would be creating a menu based on the life and times of Elvis Presley.  Known for his outlandish excesses of his later years – stories abound of the King and his Memphis Mafia boarding his private plane, the Lisa Marie, and flying to Denver for Fool’s Gold sandwiches, a glorified peanut butter-and-jelly with bacon, or flying in dozens of donuts.

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Random Pictures from Polynesian Dinner

In Appetizers, Baked Goods, Desserts, Dinner Party on December 20, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Molasses-ginger marinated wing with pineapple glaze

The makings for a Suffering Bastard

A Baked A(laska) Bomb: ginger-lemongrass ice cream, angel food cake, and meringue

Peking Duck

In Dinner Party, Main Dish, Poultry on December 13, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Cooking Peking Duck is no joke and not something one should undertake on whim.  The trouble is that there is a time-honored technique which is difficult to adhere to in the modern American kitchen.  It requires pouring a boiling hot orange syrup over the bird to flash-cook the skin, then hanging the bird for days.  Yes, days.  Although the FDA warns against such activities as they have to worry about nasty little microbes.  This drying process allows the skin to crisp better when the duck is roasted, sweating out moisture.  The duck is then roasted at a high temperature to achieve the desired golden brown skin which is the hallmark of Peking Duck.

I made mine by having the duck dry in the refrigerator for several days before hanging in the open air for a lengthy afternoon session in front of a fan.  None of the diners reported feeling ill.  And I ate leftovers for several days afterwards.

Peking Ducks; the wire trusses allowed me to hang the birds to dry before roasting.

Peking Duck with homemade pancakes

Lobster Dumplings

In Appetizers, Dinner Party on December 7, 2010 at 10:19 pm

The specifics of the recipe escape me, of course, but the memories will linger on forever.  Tender dumpling wrappers, painstakingly rolled out by the ever-patient and generous Lena, fried on one side and steamed to cook through, filled with the juxtaposition of sweet lobster, sharp ginger and scallion flavors, tart apple, and a slight hint of a smoky curry.

Curried Lobster Dumplings

Making high-quality dumplings is surprisingly easy, though a little time consuming.  The wrappers are a simple mixture of flour and water that is made into a dough, kneaded for a several minutes, and then allowed to rest for about 15 minutes.  The dough is then rolled into a rope, cut into individual servings, and rolled out to a small circle.  Filling is added and the dough pinched off to seal in the filling.  Cooking is simple and quick, all the better to satisfy the hunger built up during all of that tedious rolling.

Rabbit ragout

In Dinner Party, Main Dish, Uncategorized on October 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I’m not sure the first time I ate rabbit.  I can remember the first time I cooked it, three or four years and two apartments ago.  My roommate and I braised the rabbit in a mustard-cranberry lambic mixture and for some reason, even though I can not recall the specifics of that meal, I just flat-out fell in love with the flavor of rabbit.  Since then, I seek it out anytime I see rabbit on a menu, which thankfully is becoming more common.

This particular course for the dinner party was partly inspired by reading chef Peter Davis’s Fresh and Honest.  Davis is the chef at Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge and one recipe in the book had caught my eye (well, many have, but in particular): a grit cake topped with a mushroom ragout.  There is something I love about the idea of grits that are allowed to cool and harden enough to be served as a cake and the mushroom ragout sounded absolutely delicious.  But when planning my menu I realized that I wanted to have meat in one dish (there was going to be octopus in one course but no terrestrial meats elsewhere).  Ox tails seemed like a good item for this, as they could be braised until tender, cooking down and making its own stock around it.  Surprisingly, I had a little trouble finding ox tails, which I hadn’t been planning on.  I thought about using duck but, again, was thwarted by availability as finding just legs of duck was not easy.  I wasn’t sure the breast would make the best ragout anyway.

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Japonesa squash ravioli

In Dinner Party, Main Dish, Side Dishes on October 27, 2010 at 6:51 pm

I have written at great length about my love of the abobora japonesa, a wonderful specimen of squash, its warty green skin hiding the stunningly delicious interior.  It offers a more intense squash flavor than butternut with a dense texture similar to a buttercup squash.  Unlike many squashes, it can really stand on its own with little help from butter, brown sugar, maple, etc.  When I conceived this dinner, born on the idea of crafting a ravioli from scratch, the japonesa came to mind immediately as offering a unique filling for the ravioli.

To round out the filling, I knew I would want some other flavors (despite the squash’s inherent deliciousness) and would need something to thin out the texture for ease of filling the ravioli.  Caramelized onion provides additional sweetness and depth; fromage blanc, a simple fresh cheese, gives the filling a more creamy texture; chile and cumin powders give some heat and spice; and a touch of porter (just add beer!) lends some additional caramel notes.  It just so happened that there was a growler, or 64 ounce bottle, of Cambridge Brewing Company’s Charles River Porter in my fridge and as I poured myself a glass, the proverbial light bulb went off in my head: a small addition of porter would really be good in the squash filling!

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New England Cheeses with New England Beers

In Dinner Party on October 25, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Beer and cheese are often very wonderful together and just as good as the more heralded wine and cheese pairing.  Some will get high minded and discuss beers superior attributes in these situations but I really find this adversarial nature of the beer versus wine discussion silly.  For the first course of this past Saturday’s dinner I wanted to showcase some cheeses of the region with beers from the region.

The first pairing was Westfield Farm’s Hickory Smoked Goat Cheese and Mayflower Brewing’s Autumn Wheat Ale.  Westfield Farm, based in Hubbardston, MA, produces some great goat cheeses and their hickory smoked one is delicious.  I have lately been enjoying smoked cheeses so I felt this would be an interesting one to try.  Mayflower has quickly become one of my favorite breweries, producing some high quality beers.  The Autumn Wheat is a welcome departure from the more usual marzen-style Octoberfest or pumpkin ales have become extremely prevalent.  The pairing worked quite well with the roasted malty notes of the ale balancing the smokiness.

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New England/Italian Autumn Dinner Party

In Dinner Party on October 24, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Last night I hosted the second of the once-a-month dinner parties I vowed to undertake upon moving to new apartment in September, a project which I will write about in greater depth soon and which should also yield some good recipe posts. The idea for the New England-Italian pairing was brought on by an interest in making ravioli and a modified affogato. From there I just decided to keep the whole thing rooted in some Italian culinary traditions, from menu structure to the actual food. I make no claim to have any great knowledge of those culinary traditions but that is a fairly accurate parallel to my general cooking style: a broad understanding paired with limited expertise and loose interpretation of rules, styles, and techniques.

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