Saturday, March 08, 2008

65th birthday dinner

What do you make for a man who has it all? And who has done it all? From memory, these are the jobs my father has held in his life:
  • Qualified baker and pastry cook
  • Hotel night manager
  • Oil rig supervisor

  • Cameraman
  • Pilot

  • Disc jockey

  • Glass worker

  • Home builder and renovator

  • Salesman

Plus there's a few more unofficial ones in there, like boating expert, holder of the world record for music trivia, man with the ability to take anything apart and fix it, prankster, world traveller, aeroplane expert and maker of the best homemade potato chips, bar none.

Today my wonderful father turns 65. We will be celebrating his birthday tonight.

I am going to make an all-French affair (again, surprise surprise.) I have some lovely 2005 La Vielle Ferme French rose wine and an Italian trentino white chilling, and all is in readiness.


It was great. Here's what we had:

  • Damien Pignolet's salad of prawns and roasted tomatoes

  • Roast rib fillet with herby Dutch Cream potatoes
  • Green beans
  • Coeurs a la creme with raspberry sauce and strawberries

I feel the standout was probably the salad, which is what Mum said too, if only because it was a bit interesting and different. Here come the recipes.

Damien Pignolet's salad of prawns and roasted tomatoes (serves 6)

This is the original recipe: mine was amended (I used asparagus instead of beans, slight change in the mayo and so on). For the salad:
12 small, firm and ripe tomatoes, blanched and peeled
Olive oil (I used basil oil)
Salt and pepper
200g baby green beans, trimmed
1 small cucumber
24 cooked king prawns, shelled, tails still on
150g frisee lettuce, washed and dried
For the mayonnaise:
1 clove garlic, peeled and bruised
1 yolk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
60ml extra virgin olive oil
80ml grapeseed oil
2 tsps aged sherry vinegar
1 tsp verjuice
freshly ground white pepper (I used three drops green Tabasco instead)
Preheat oven to maximum. Brush tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper, put on cake rack in a baking dish (I put them straight onto a tray) and roast till slightly scorched. Let cool.
Lightly cook the beans in boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Let cool.
Peel and deseed cucumber: cut into small batons.
Make the mayo. Rub the inside of a mortar and pestle with the clove and discard. Beat together the yolk, mustard and a good pinch of salt. Beat in the oils a little at a time. Fear not, nothing will go wrong. Add vinegars and verjuice, then the pepper to taste. Mine should have been a little more runny. Next time I will add more verjuice.
Clean the prawns and remove the digestive tract. Keep tails on. Reserve prawn shells for various pranks, like hiding them in the neighbour's garage.
Arrange your salad: tomatoes go off centre. Toss the lettuce, beans and cucumber with a scrap of mayo and arrange piles on plates. Prawns go between tomatoes and salad. Damien says to dip the prawns lightly in mayo: I would have, except for various fussy people who prefer to dip themselves.
Roast rib fillet with herby potatoes
I bought a slab of fillet weighing about 1.4kg from the Stanley Rd butcher. This was HEAPS and could have fed six easily, or even eight if you spread it out a bit more. The day before, I rubbed the fillet with a little olive oil and red wine and let it marinate in the fridge. On the day, it took about an hour in a 190C oven, untied, and then 20 minutes of resting time in a foil tent. The result was delicious, tender, soft, well-done on the ends and medium-rare in the centre.

The potatoes were washed, sliced lengthwise and prepared thusly, then sprinkled with random chopped herbs from the garden (rosemary, oregano, basil, thyme).

The beans were just blanched and served with a drizzle of olive oil.

Coeurs a la creme with raspberry sauce

I bought six little coeur moulds from Taste at Bowen Hills ($7.95 each, totally worth it). They are a small porcelain heart-shaped mould with holes in the bottom. You CAN go without and make freeform bag-shaped coeurs, but that means rigging up a rack and a draining apparatus in the fridge. Too fussy for me. Much easier to get the moulds, even though they are totally useless for anything else. I love it. For six coeurs (I only made four and kept the leftovers in the fridge):
Macerated fruits 700 gm mixed berries, such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and youngberries (I just used strawberries)
20 ml Cointreau or other orange liqueur
Coeurs à la crème
250 gm each of cream cheese and ricotta
110 gm (½ cup) pure icing sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (pod reserved for another use, if desired)
200 ml double cream (48% milk fat) (I used the Bulla brand: excellent)
Raspberry sauce
300 gm (2 punnets) raspberries
75 gm (1/3 cup) pure icing sugar
60 ml (¼ cup) Cointreau

For coeurs à la crème, pulse combined cream cheese and ricotta, icing sugar and vanilla bean seeds in a food processor until smooth, scraping down sides. Add cream and pulse until just combined. Cut six 20cm squares of muslin or a clean Chux, rinse well and wring out. Use muslin to line six coeur moulds. Fill the moulds with mixture and place on a tray. Stand overnight in the fridge.
For raspberry sauce, process raspberries, icing sugar and Cointreau in a food processor until smooth, then push through a fine sieve, discarding seeds. Makes about 300ml.

Combine berries and Cointreau in a bowl and stand for at least 5 minutes to macerate.
Invert coeurs onto serving plates and peel away muslin. Drizzle some sauce around the coeur to show off its shape. Add some artistically-placed berries to the side.

1 comment:

Uraheni said...

Lovely story, but he would have a problem with the word "apprentice". Fully qualified baker pastrycook, with papers.

The salad and desert were standouts, wonderful.