Cooking In Advance
What I Planned
Michael Ruhlman’s original Skills Instructor from his wonderful book, Making of a Chef, came to visit recently, and naturally Ruhlman blogs the meal, beginning with a photograph of the prep sheet. They made lots of intensely great and difficult things. I'm hoping to take it relatively easy for this week’s dinner, and getting some of the work done in advance might help too.
I'm trying to work out what to make, based mostly on what the Farm School sent us this week. And even they don’t always know where the ball is going to go: apparently, they really liked the Italian radicchio they meant to send us this week, but so did the local deer. And so, no radicchio for us. What we do have is summer squash, and since I've already been ratatouilled out for the week, a vegetable terrine seems in order.
So the plan is
- tomatoes, basil, balsamic
- fussy little plates of different duck nibbles (to be figured out)
- slices of vegetable terrine
- grilled swordfish, lentils
- bleu cheese and dates
- something with berries
Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy.
What actually happened
The tomatoes, brought by a guest, were great. The day was hot, the tomatoes were cool, the porch had a breeze.,
The duck, a play on using the entire bird, was a hit.
- I browned the duck legs and then braised them in stock, red wine, and a half-dozen apricots (sliced in half). This worked nicely. I strained the sauce, reduced it a little, and dedided that it was already tasting a little intense; instead of further reduction, I thickened it a bit with arrowroot.
- I brined the breasts overnight (salt, brown sugar, garlic), and then smoked them in the stovetop smoker over pecan dust. All told, I smoked them about 3½ hours. They were dark mahagony. I sliced one and gave everyone two cold slices, which were spicy and very tasty, and I have lunch next week!
- I woke up feeling ambitious, and having more turducken stock from last week than I knew how to use. So I made a duck consommé. Not very on-topic for "taking it easy,” but this is turning into a Ruhlman dinner. And it’s an excuse for My Very First Consommé. It seemed like it took the raft forever to form. But it did work, it was clear. I'm not entirely sure that it's work the fuss, but it looks nice.
The grilled vegetable terrine looked nice, stood up to slicing (phew!), and tasted fine. Ruhlman’s Basic Cream #2 was tasty; next time, I might thicken the cream a bit more.
I did the swordfish in skewers, with lentils (substituting some smoked leftover scraps of smoky lamb for the ham), sauced with Pasquale’s cilantro cumin crema and Sally Schneider’s balsamic red peppers.
I stuffed the fresh figs with little dollops of St. Augur, a creamy bleu, and grilled them ever-so-slightly, really just enough to heat them. Very tasy.
Dessert was going to be ice cream and Inside of a Blueberry Pie, but the ice cream didn’t happen. But we had some ripe peaches, which I roasted (with a little sugar, a but of lime juice, a bit of butter) in a very slow over for about 2 ½ hours. Many scraping spoons were heard.