Dinner challenge & recipe test

It’s pretty much a rule that if you’re going to test out a recipe for the first time, you make it at least once before you serve it to guests.

I broke that rule on Sunday.

I had Sandy, Damir, and Betty over for dinner. I was testing recipes for Natalie MacLean’s new book that will be coming out this fall.

Wherever possible, I bought local organic. When local organic wasn’t available, I bought local. When it wasn’t available, I bought organic (this great hierarchy of food choice courtesy of David Suzuki).

We started with martinis and some white kidney bean purée I made by cooking up the beans and using the stick blender on them and a little bit of the water they cooked in, and added a little drizzle of white truffle oil and a pinch of salt, and served it with triangles of whole wheat pita.

I made the martinis a little different by including a wee drip of VSOP brandy that had been drowning green peppercorns since December 9th, and popped a few peppercorns into the bottom of each glass.

From then, it was food & wine.First stop: oyster chowder. This was a really tasty recipe. Served it up with Altana Di Vico pinot grigio 2009.

Oyster Chowder

Next recipe had me out in the kitchen cooking for a while; fortunately, I had prepared the green pea & thyme puree (shelled the peas myself!) and the semolina gnocchi in advance. So I roasted up some young pigeon (squab) breasts and a partridge, too, because Whitehouse meats only had 3 pigeons left! It’s quite expensive there: I’m going to take a look this week when I’m at T&T with Betty to see if they have pigeon, and see where it’s from and what the cost is. It’s a lovely meat: dark, juicy, flavourful, but not strong and gamey or liver-tasting, which had worried some.

We drank Betty’s Peppoli Chianti Classico from 2008 with this dish. I almost forgot to take a picture, which is why there are fork marks in my pea purée!

Squab (young pigeon)

On to the fourth course! Lamb croquettes. Definitely the most labour-intensive dish (had to prepare it over 3 days… I could have done it in one day, but it would have had me worrying about coordination with other dishes).

Awesome. Totally AWESOME. Crunchy on the outside, rich lamb flavour and melt-in-your-mouth inside. Very rich. The recipe suggests serving it with an endive salad, so I made a very simple salad of endive leaves, ruby-red grapefruit slices, some very old balsamic vinegar that almost wouldn’t pour any more because it was so thick, and a little olive oil. Just something simple and a little acidic to balance the richness.

And with that, we had an awesome wine from Sandy and Damir: K1 by Geoff Hardy, a 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Adelaide Hills. It was a numbered bottle, #3910 of only 5000. It did a slow, smouldering tango with the lamb: they were a perfect pair.

Lamb Croquette

After that, a little break (we needed a break, really) and then some panna cotta for dessert (blackberries from the St. Lawrence farmers’ market that I bought and froze, raspberry syrup from the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair made by Lennox Farms in Shelburne) with another half-bottle of Betty’s Chianti.

Panna Cotta

All in all, dinner was a success. Definitely didn’t throw any food out: everyone cleaned their plates. Only complaint was that I spent too much time in the kitchen and not enough with my guests!

Next time, they’ll be served a big plate of pasta and a salad, and I’ll spend all my time with them. Or I’ll barbecue something (it had better be warmer out).

This coming Sunday I’m cooking for Steve & Rob & Joanne — more new recipes!

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