The date of the dinner party arrived on they day of the hurricane, and so now we have the story of the Hurricane Irene dinner to accompany the memorable Norwegian Blizzard dinner.
It’s good to cook for people with appetite. The first course was gazpacho, I made a batch and a half, and none was left. I brought out a bottle of Chablis to go with it, and when I went to grab the next course it was delightful to see that we were ready for the next course’s wine.
The house did not blow over, or move to Kansas.
- Snacks and first aid. Dark and Stormies were planned, but people wanted a Last Word, and so we had Last Words. Linda made retro onion dip and veggies. I made some corn muffins – madeleines, really – with the excellent local corn.
- Brandywine yellow tomato gazpacho, fresh-baked challah, Chablis. (Meryl examined the bread closely and gravely observed that this was nice bread but it wasn’t challah. The very slack dough did seem to run away. It was naked in a hurricane, after all.)
- Salmon, spinach, and shrimp mousseline, garnished with the mushrooms that ought to have been in it. (Mark at midnight: “Hello, mushrooms. What are you doing here?”) Lacryma Christi.
- Enchiladas made with fresh corn crepes – tasty local corn again, duck confit, and barbecue sauce, from a Michael Symon / Michael Ruhlman recipe. The sauce exhausted all my remaining veal stock and demi-glâce and was worth it. Served with grilled banana and bits of pork belly. (The pork belly was rubbed with spices, braised in chicken stock for at least six hours, chilled, cut into little squares, and then gently pan fried for another two hours. There were no leftovers.) Burgundy (terrific) and also a lovely Grauer Burgunder, because a guest couldn’t decide which would serve better and brought both (hooray!). Each was terrific.
- Salt plate rib-eye. Grenache
- Caramel braised Jetstar tomato, stuffed with season’s first apples, fresh green figs, fresh cherries, ginger, pecans, pine nuts, vanilla bean, cinnamon. With freshly-made basil ice cream. Sauternes.
That dessert was something I’ve been thinking about. Gopnik wrote about it in a 1997 article that began, “Nine o’clock on a Friday morning, and David Angelot, the commis at the restaurant Arpège, on the Rue de Varenne, has begun to braise tomatoes for dessert.”
Normally, a braised tomato becomes tomato sauce. (‘The limitations of this insight,’ one of [Alain] Passard’s admirers has noted gravely, ‘describe the limitations of Italian cuisine.’) To make a tomato get sweeter without falling apart not only is technically demanding but demonstrates, with a stubborn, sublime logic, an extremely abstract botanical point. Tomatoes are not vegetables; they are fruit.
It’s a bit of bother to make, but this is the time of year. Although much discussed on the Web, moreover, I was unable to discover whether this dish is intended to be served hot or cold. I think the hot dish was better, but that would be an even greater high wire act – and there’s a lot that can go wrong here. But it didn’t.
And we finished the whole batch of basic ice cream.