Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Eve Dinner- Happy 2009

Our own private New Year's Eve celebration was a a huge success. Big Guy and I had a great time cooking together and most of the dishes we created were big hits! We even brought out the fancy linens and the wedding crystal to help make everything feel more festive. Though we made quite a mess in the kitchen and had to run the dishwasher twice, the great meal was worth all the work and spending the time together talking and cooking and eating was really nice.
We started out with the potato blini with creme fraiche and caviar- very tasty, but made the house pretty stinky with the frying of the blini. Next time I might make the blini smaller- since it overwhelmed the caviar a little.

Next we had the shrimp with the orange coconut cayenne vinaigrette. First of all- we could have made enough for an entire restaurant- I don't know why it didn't occur to us to reduce the recipe- but we have so much left over that we are going to serve this dish again when we have dinner guests on Friday night. The only concern we had was that the vinaigrette wasn't thick enough- but once we used a hand blender to whip some air into it- it was better. Plus, after a night it the fridge, it thickened even more- so it should be great on Friday. This is REALLY good and actually pretty simple. It would make a great salad dressing, sauce or a seafood sauce or I am sure you could dream up a million other uses for it- if anyone wants the recipe that we used- let me know.

Then we had the escargot which I can't take much credit for since we bought them pre-stuffed with garlic and herbed butter. All did was make some toast points, but let me just tell you that it was amazing and practically no work at all. I think we got more than 20 for around ten dollars- These would be so easy to serve at a cocktail or dinner party- I simply forgot how easy these are to prepare

So the next dish wasn't as pretty- we were totally flying blind on this one- The dish was Crispy ostrich and we knew that the ostrich was supposed to be served as very rare medallions wrapped in something flaky and crispy somewhere between puff pastry and wonton, and there was a broth and a little smear of almond butter. Since I didn't have almond butter and I didn't feel like going out to get some, I made some by toasting almonds and adding salt and oil. I added a little to much salt, but decided to just go with it. We seared the ostrich fillet into a log shape and let it cool for 20 minutes or so. For the crispy coating we went with phyllo dough. I layered about 4 or 5 sheets alternating dough,butter,dough, butter etc... and wrapped it all around the ostrich. We brushed the outside with butter and baked for 10-15 mins at 400. We had to switch to the broiler at the end to get the outside to brown, but one that was done, I did my best to cut the meat into medallion slices. I plated these and added a little broth and the almond butter smear- This didn't look as pretty as when we had it at May Street Market and it didn't taste quite as amazing either, but you could tell we were on the right track and just needed some refining and re-tooling- we'll keep working on this one.

The next dish, Grilled Duck with Black Currant Sauce was by far the home run of the evening. It was so good! Big Guy and I smiled the whole time and kept congratulating each other. It was one of the best things I have ever made and honestly it was pretty simple! We loved it, and we happen to have two more duck breasts in the fridge so we can try it again later this week.

Dessert was pretty good too! I don't think it was groundbreaking and I am sure we could improve upon it- but it was good, cozy and satisfying. I liked it, and wouldn't mind trying it again some time- The pears were poached in a white wine, lemon and sugar syrup with a little vanilla and lemon peel. Then we drizzled a caramelized pear reduction on top and included a scoop of store bought caramelized pear ice cream. Then we added a little of the warm syrup to meld it all together. If you like pear, or even that apple crumble type taste- this is that kind of dish.

In my opinion, dinner was a success and we had a great time. I hope you all had a fun and safe evening and aren't nursing headaches today! Sadly, my Champagne toast was replaced with ginger ale, but then again....I do lover ginger ale!
Happy 2009 everybody!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

I am at work for a half day today and can't wait to get home! I was super lazy and drove the car to work and parked in a lot near my office. I will be paying nearly $20 for 4 hours of park time. I hate wasting money, but the idea of parking further away and taking a bus to my car seemed like a waste of time and seemed to defeat the purpose of driving in the first place. (I feel like I deserve it at this point since I am 34 weeks today!) Do you know that I have only had ONE mani/pedi since I have been pregnant and I have YET to get a massage or any other pamper treatment!!! I know it is because of the timing of everything- buying a house is so expensive, and now every dollar seems to count. Plus we will need to pay for childcare soon, and we just bought a VERY expensive camera- wasting money seems so more frivolous now. (like the parking today- that could have been a manicure!)

Speaking of wasting money! Tonight is New Years Eve!
Big Guy and I decided to stay in a cook a french meal together- we went all out since it is the two of us and we'll be having the works!
I think we have six courses planned- I hope they all work out.

1st Course: Mini potato pancakes with creme fraiche and caviar
2nd course: Shrimp with coconut orange vinaigrette on a bed of red oak lettuce (inspired by a dish at Froggy's in Highwood)
3rd Course: Escargot with herbed garlic butter
4th Course: Crispy ostrich with broth and homemade almond butter smear (inspired by a dish at May Street Market in West Loop/West Town)
5th Course: Grilled duck breast with black currant sauce (inspired by a dish at Froggy's in Highwood)
6th Course: Poached pears with caramel sauce and ice cream

This will definitely be a sink or swim situation. Hopefully it will be fun instead of stressful- and it was all Big Guy's idea! I am looking forward to spending time together cooking!
I will take pictures to let you know how everything goes. I hope everyone has a fun and safe evening!