Food - recipes, reviews, and discussion
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Last night marked the first Toronto Wine Elitist Cabal (TM) dinner of 2015. Present were board members Jay Shampur and Michael Grammer and our friend Michael Wright. We also had the honor of inducting our first female member, Jackie McLachlan, founder and chief marketing officer of My Wine Canada, an online cross-Canada wine retailer that allows consumers to buy Canadian wine from all across the country. Canadian board members will want to Google and then check out her website.
There were two themes to 2015's inaugural dinner: Spanish tapas and blatant intellectual property theft from some of our favorite local restaurants. Okay, to be fair, two of those recipes were given to us as a courtesy and the one I blatantly stole was far off because of two missing ingredients but I'll get to that.
* Orange & Salami Baguettes
* Chorizo braised in Spanish Brandy
* Cod over Spicy Tomato Sauce
* Papas Bravas with Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme Aioli and Spicy Tomato Sauce
* Garlic Brandy Chicken Wings
The first tapa was a historical throwback to what a Spanish tapa actually is: tapa means "cover" and they were traditional a thin slice of bread, meat or cheese (or any combination of the three) used to cover your wine glass and prevent the flies from getting into the wine. As one of the contributions was a Palo Cortado sherry, I covered the glass at the table with a slice of whole wheat baguette topped with some coppa salami and a slice of fresh orange. As Jay does not eat red meat, his topped with some brie and an orange slice.
The next four were all served in dishes at the same time to be shared by everyone and were passed around.
The first is some fresh chicken chorizo sausage acquired from Whole Foods and gently braised in some Lepanto Solera Reserva Fino cask-finished brandy and Sibona XO Grappa made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. No additional salt, pepper or seasoning was added so that the flavors stood out on their own (this would be a repeated theme throughout the night).
The next was a whole white cod filet gently braised in a spicy tomato sauce. The sauce was made from onion, garlic, fresh heirloom orange tomatoes, the brandy/grappa combo, sea salt and red chili flakes. There was absolutely no seasoning added to the cod itself. The idea is that the sauce is to be used as the seasoning which means diners must eat this dish with a spoon so they get some sauce with every bite of fish. Decorated with some fresh coriander.
The third tapa was the famous Papas Bravas aka bold potatoes from Spain. Fresh russet potatoes were cut into thick strips and then fried in olive oil. So what differentiates these from Papas Fritas aka fried potatoes aka French fries? No salt, that's what. That's why they get called bold, they're bold enough to be served without salt.
These were instead served with more of the spicy tomato sauce as well as an olive oil herb aioli made from Greek olive oil, two egg yolks, apple cider vinegar from Prince Edward County, sea salt, pepper, and a combo of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. (Yes, that's also the combo mentioned in the Simon & Garfunkel song.) The idea is that, again, the sauces are the seasonings and you must spoon some over your papas bravas.
The final tapa was a trio of split chicken wings gently braised in garlic and olive oil. Unlike the other tapas, however, the wings were seasoned before braising with smoked sea salt, black pepper, rosemary and oregano.
* Ricotta Gnocchi with Chorizo, Sage, Butternut Sauce
* Ricotta Gnocchi and Brandied Garlic Shrimp in Pesto
* Truffled Mushroom "Cappucino"
Moving on to the Primeras aka the first courses I did a little Italian-Spanish fusion by serving two different gnocchi-based pasta dishes.
The gnocchi was hand-made, rolled and cut from a mixture of 1 cup of whole wheat flour (plus lots extra), 2 cups extra-smooth Ricotta, 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, 2 egg yolks, salt and pepper. This wasn't actually a complicated process but it sure was a sticky, messy one. I was constantly spreading flour everywhere to deal with the stickiness -- on my cutting board, the sheet pans used to hold the finished gnocchis, my hands, the cutting knife, even the fork I used to flatten them. Yes, I learned from my mistake in my previous post on gnocchi and remembered to flatten these ones out.
These were then boiled in unsalted water until they rose from the bottom of the pot and started floating. These were then immediately removed with a slotted spoon and placed in a pre-heated at high teflon-coated frying pan with olive oil in it in order to give them a nicely colored crunchy crust on the outside and keep a soft inside. I cannot stress enough how important the execution of this part is and I probably didn't stress it enough in my first post.
For the meat eaters, these were tossed immediately with a butternut squash and cream sauce, more of the brandy braised chorizo which was now crumbled, and fresh sage leaves. For Jay, I tossed his with homemade pesto made from fresh basil, parsley, parmesan cheese, lots of crushed garlic, olive oil and sea salt.
I then topped his with some shrimp seasoned with the same smoked salt mixture from before and gently poached them in olive oil and chopped garlic. It turned out I had actually made more pesto and shrimp than I needed for one serving and when I asked if anyone else would rather have the shrimp and pesto version as well, Jackie jumped all over this one declaring that she loved shrimp. I aim to please, so she got it.
We then took a short conversation break and our palate cleanser as it were was the first dish stolen from a restaurant -- the Truffled Mushroom "Cappucino." This was a teacup full of a cream of mushroom soup made with portobellos instead of button mushrooms. It was seasoned with 2 large tablespoons of truffle paste which Jay generously acquired from one of his chef contacts, more of the brandy/grappa combo, thyme and parsley and emulsified with unsalted butter. Note once again that salt and pepper are not added here. The idea is you actually want this to taste like mushrooms.
Before serving, I added in a bit of truffle oil, ladled the soup into teacups, and then topped it with some partially-foamed milk using a hand blender and some powdered dried cremini mushrooms. This last ingredient I made simply by throwing creminis into a paper bag and leaving it in my fridge for 2 weeks. They slowly dessicated in the bag and when completely dried I just ground them up in my blender. The soup would've been better if I had used a milk frother but nobody had one I could borrow. But for the lack of a super foamy milk top, I nailed this one perfectly. Yay me.
* Lemongrass Coriander Cured Tuna and Salmon with Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme AiolI, Spicy Tomato Sauce and Cranberry Orange Sauce
* Chipotle Marinated Flatiron Steak with Frijoles, Pineapple Lime Chili Salsa and Cranberry Orange Sauce
And then it was on to the main courses. For Jay, another recipe stolen/graciously given by Langdon Hall. They use a homemade Scandinavian style cure on fresh albacore substituting in fresh lemongrass and coriander for the standard dill weed. An inspired choice that went perfect on the fresh tuna and Atlantic salmon end pieces.
For the presentation, I sliced both the filets and then reassembled them with alternating pieces on the salmon skin. These were served with a "flag" composed of the spicy tomato sauce, the aioli and the first appearance of a homemade orange cranberry sauce made from a bag of organic cranberries, the flesh and juice of a navel orange, 1 cup of sugar and water each, and seasoned with cinnamon. I must say that it did look better in my head than it did on the plate, so I was slightly disappointed in myself at that. Jay ended up sharing his main with all of us due to the humongous size of his dish as I wanted the entire fish skin covered for my presentation.
For the meat eaters, a dish I blatantly stole from chef Elia Herrera at Los Colibris, an upscale Mexican resto in downtown Toronto. One of their signature dishes is a delicious grilled flatiron steak served on a bed of refried beans and topped with a large fried queso fritter. It's extremely rich, savory and flavorful but Jay's most frequent comment is that the style of cuisine lacks acidity.
*Ahem* Having lived in Central America, I know that the reason for this is that LIMES are used there on food the way we use salt and pepper here and you're supposed to ask for some wedges so you can liberally squeeze some onto your food. Nevertheless, I graciously decided to resolve the problem for everyone as follows.
First, I marinated the steaks in a blend of two canned chipotle adobo peppers, 2 tsps of the adobo sauce from the can, 1/2 cup pineapple juice and 1/2 cup of the brandy/grappa combo. These were then pan-grilled at high heat and sliced against the grain. They were plated on a bed of refried beans made from boiled mashed black beans seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin and lime juice. This was then topped with a sprinkle of sea salt and a pineapple salsa made from half of a fresh diced pineapple, a single chopped red Thai chili, sea salt, a cup of chopped Vidalia onion, the juice of half a lime and fresh coriander leaves. More of the cranberry orange sauce was served on the plate as well.
This was delicious but to be honest as soon as I tasted the finished dish, I knew I had left out one and possibly even two crucial ingredients. The first was cumin which chef Elia definitely uses and I knew it immediately. The other I suspect to be used is bitter chocolate or at least cocoa. Jackie really liked this dish but the others who have been to Los Colibris before knew it wasn't the same and Elia's is definitely better. Fortunately, I have three flatiron steaks leftover with which I can attempt a much better recreation.
* Ontario Peach Bavarois, Hetszolo Tokaji Gel and Borracho Sponge Cake
Finally, the Postre aka dessert is blatantly stolen from one of our fave new restaurants Borealia which I have previously posted restaurant porn from in this forum. They make a Strawberry Bavarois topped with a Madeira gel and served with chocolate cookie crumble on the side.
I decided to use that inspiration for my own dessert with a number of modifications. First, I made a sponge cake base by whipping up two eggs, 1 cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. To this I added 1 cup of whole wheat flour a 1 tsp of baking powder. Then I melted 1 TBSp butter in 1/2 cup of milk and added it in. This was baked at 300 for 40 minutes in a toaster oven. Important for a sponge cake: do not cream the butter and sugar together first before adding the eggs and then the flour or you wind up with a traditional cake -- bakes high but has crumbly texture. For a sponge cake, the eggs must be aerified first, the flour added, and the butter and liquid last. You end up with a lower but much lighter cake. Once finished, I drizzled the cake with some of the brandy/grappa combo I had already set aside.
For the bavarois, I gently stewed 2 cups of frozen Ontario peaches I bought myself at a farmer's market with 1/3 cup of sugar and the remnants of the brandy/grappa combo. To this I added 2 packets of pre-softened gelatin and combined. Once cool, I beat 1 cup of whipped cream until double in volume and then gently folded in the peach gelatin mixture. This was poured onto the cooled cake base and chilled to set. While that chilled, I opened a bottle of Hetszolo 2000 5 Puttonyos Tokaji and softened 1 package of gelatin in half of the bottles contents and then gently heated until dissolved. This was poured on the solid bavarois base for my third and final layer.
For plating, I cut the bavarois into diagonal pieces, melted some Lindt white chocolate wafers and drizzled this over the bavarois and then pooled it on one side. Then I dropped dollops of the orange cranberry sauce on top of the bavarois and pooled some on the other side as well as adding an orange slice. Voila, restaurant style dessert. I think this picture doesn't do the dish enough justice, it actually came out quite well. I think a solid black plate and a different camera angle would have helped out more.
Thus concluded the highly-successful first TWEC dinner of 2015, made all the better by the company, the generous sharing of wines, and the induction of our first female wine elitist. Oh yes, there were plenty of wines but you gotta go see Mike Grammer's post on the Wine Talk forum for notes and wine porn.
As Tran says, I've posted on the wines. The food was licklicous-good. Tran is a fantastic chef and I was honoured to be included and to provide the location. Thank you, Tran!
5 posts • Page 1 of 1