Labor Day Dinner

The Diners.

The Diners.

Some of our dinners are well planned, tested, and carried out in military precision. Others are not. Labor Day’s dinner was one of the latter. The menu was selected by leafing through recent cooking magazines, websites, and rejected previous menu items. Despite the ad hoc nature of the endeavor and the resulting ethnic jumble, the meal came together in a reasonable fashion.

THE RECIPES

Fried Brussels Sprouts

Fried Brussels Sprouts

Deep-fat fried Brussels Sprouts

A Luke special: fresh Brussels sprouts were trimmed, the old leaves removed, and the sprouts cut into ¼ inch longitudinal slices. The slices were fried in 2 inches of canola oil heated to 350˚ F until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per batch. While warm, the “chips” were sprinkled with salt & pepper, a bit of balsamic and served warm.

 

 

 

 

The Artichoke Soup with Garnish

The Artichoke Soup with Garnish

Artichoke Soup

Luke and Cathy had an artichoke soup at their favorite local restaurant, Maggie’s Farm. In an attempt to replicate it, we chose the recipe at www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/artichoke-soup.html with only slight modifications- we used vegetable stock (we had a vegetarian for the meal) and omitted the spinach (none available).

 

 

 

 

Labor Day Caprese SaladNew Jersey Tomatoes with Burata, Pesto, and Olive Tapenade

This was a riff on the classic Caprese salad inspired by an article in the Fine Cooking magazine. Fresh, local tomatoes were sliced into ¼ inch slices, shingled with ¼ inch slices of Burata cheese between slices. The stack was topped with an olive tapenade (28 oz pitted kalamata olives, 8 oz green olives, juice from 1 lemon, 4 large cloves garlic, 2 Tbp capers, 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, and a ½ cup parsley all chopped in a food processor) and pesto (2 cups fresh basil leaves, 4 cloves garlic, ½ cup blanched almonds, ½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese finely processed and then ⅔ cup extra virgin oil added while the machine was running).

 

 

The brown on brown is not beautiful, but it is delicious.

The brown on brown is not beautiful, but it is delicious.

Malaysian Rendang Beef

This was a recipe that caught our eye- we had never tried a Malaysian dish and this looked intriguing. We used the recipe almost as written at www.finecooking.com/recipes/beef-rendang.aspx  using flank steak and chile de árbol. The only change was that we omitted the tamarind concentrate (surprisingly, given our area, the only ingredient we couldn’t find).  We decided to serve it with quinoa (cooked in vegetable stock) rather than rice (one diner has problems with rice).

 

 

 

Two Potatoes Anna

Two Potatoes Anna

Two Potatoes Anna

Keeping with the theme of disparate elements, we went with Potatoes Anna using the slight riff on the classic at www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/foodnetworkkitchens/two-potatoes-anna.html. Like most recipes, thinly sliced potatoes are layered with butter and, in this case, minced fresh rosemary and salt in an oven-safe skillet. The potatoes were browned and placed in a 425˚ F convection oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown on the top. A large plate was placed over the skillet and flipped. Much to my amazement, the stack came out perfectly- vast quantities of butter are good for more than just the taste!

 

Barely frozen ice ice cream on warm cake = puddle of sauce.

Barely frozen ice ice cream on warm cake = puddle of sauce.

Chocolate Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Grenache with vanilla ice cream

The cake was from the Wine Spectator’s spread on wine friendly desserts in the September 30, 2014 issue. The cake itself was a light fluffy batter that rose spectaclarly while baking- grossly exceeding the 3-inch tall 9 inch diameter pan in which  it was placed. The ganache was straight-forward. The recipe called for an 8-hour refrigeration, but was usable in the limited time we actually had.

Luke worked his magic on what has become his standard vanilla custard-based ice-cream.

 

THE RESULTS

Deep-fat fried Brussels Sprouts

The sprouts were not necessarily planned as an appetizer, but preparations started later than planned and people were getting “peckish” prior to the rest of the meal completion. The “chips” were excellent but may have benefited from a little more salt.

Artichoke Soup

2012 Sisters Forever Unoaked Chardonnay.

2012 Sisters Forever Unoaked Chardonnay.

The artichoke soup was excellent. Having wrestling with vicious saw blades on the leaves and tenacious fluff in the chokes, I would use a can of artichoke hearts in the future and leave the fresh hand-grenades to others. I prefer fresh ingredient in most cases but occasionally convenience trumps fresh. The soup was best when the soup, crostini, and cheese were eaten together. The un-oaked chardonnay did well with the combination but suffered when tasted with only the soup. The wine itself had a citrusy nose, soft palate and crisp finish. By itself, it was okay but was very food friendly.

2013 Sisters Forever Un-oaked Chardonnay

New Jersey Tomatoes with Burata, Pesto, and Olive Tapenade

Even for someone not too crazy about fresh tomatoes, what’s not to love? The olive tapenade was very salty but added a nice flavor to the tomatoes. The pesto was very thick and salty/cheesy which also played well with the tomato/Burata base.  The chardonnay actually worked well with the pesto/tomato/Burata but was a disaster with the salty, assertive tapenade. We tasted the zinfandel with the combination and found the reverse- the tapenade mixture worked well, the pesto not so much.

Malaysian Rendang Beef

If I had not known the origin, I would have assumed that this was an Indian dish. The beef was almost sweet with a spicy finish (a little too much for me and too little for everyone else). The quinoa tasted very good with the dish but the brown-on-brown presentation was not the most glamorous- white rice may have been more visually appealing. Although the dish was good, it lacked something. Perhaps the tamarind would have added the final oomph but, lacking that, I would consider more lime juice, onion and garlic.

The potatoes were excellent- buttery and fattening. They went nicely with the beef but obviously two forms of starch weren’t really needed.

2011 Ravenswood Big River Zinfandel

2011 Ravenswood Big River Zinfandel

The Ravenswood was big enough that it stood up well to both the sweetness and spiciness of the dish. As previously discussed, this vineyard is not my favorite Ravenswood (Teldeschi and Belloni tie for that honor) but I believe that it pairs the best with spicy food.

2013 Ravenswood Big River Zinfandel

 

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Grenache

The cake was problematic. The recipe calls for a high-sided cake pan, which we used. The cake rose so much, however, that batter covered the oven racks and floor. It took substantially longer to bake that indicated and fell when tested for the last time. The grenache was decadent and delicious both as it was being made, and as a finished product. After the cake was trimmed, sliced, and spackled together with thick grenache it actually looked fairly good and tasted heavenly.

Given timing issue, the typically rich vanilla ice cream did not have a chance to adequately freeze. It did, however, work well as a thick, cool sauce for the cake.

 

1994 Fonseca Vintage Port

1994 Fonseca Vintage Port

The port was our first tasting of the 1994 Fonseca since a tasting shortly after release. The wine remains somewhat young (at 20 years!) but has a great fruitiness with subtle overtones of caramel/butterscotch. As expected, it went very well with the chocolate-on-chocolate of the dessert and complimented the sweetness. Not unsurprisingly, the zinfandel paired almost as well but did so as a counterpoint to sweetness.

1994 Fonseca Vintage Port

 

 

 

 

 

 

As is often the case, all of the guest were full, content, and (thanks to the wine) happy.

Skimming the Beef

Skimming the Beef

One comment to Labor Day Dinner

  • Mary Anne  says:

    Yummy! Love all the pictures.

Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>