Friday, June 17, 2011

My Blogging Buddy, Cynthia, COMES To Dinner - Nah, Who Am I Fooling? Cynthia COOKS Dinner

Before her visit, I came up with the great idea that Cynthia should cook dinner. What an awesome plan! I think I’ll do that for all my houseguests from now on. After all, is it really fair that I should have to clean the house AND cook? AND Cyn even left it up to ME to choose what she would cook, although I tossed it right back to her. So here is the menu that Cynthia and I served the first night she was with me:

Salmon Mousse (served earlier in the day) - Printable recipe here
Guacamole - Printable recipe here.
Two-Toned Soup garnished with Lemon Oil and Pickled Shallots

Rice with Pigeon Peas
Chicken with Green Seasoning
Fish with Coconut Milk Sauce

Trifle with Vanilla Pound Cake, Gently Poached Plums and Rich Vanilla Custard

As I said before, I HAD wanted Cynthia to see me wielding my kitchen tools, but then I thought better of it because of time constraints, so I made the first course and dessert ahead (mostly).
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

I made the soup completely in advance, but Cyn WAS very impressed by my pouring technique to get each soup to cover half the bowl. The trick is that the two soups must be the same thickness or the thinner one will overtake more of the bowl’s landscape. That may mean thinning one soup just before serving, and that’s fine.

Remember when Naomi garnished her celery soup with lemon oil and pickled shallots on Top Chef Masters? I went wild for it, so I used the same finishing touches with these soups.

Two-Toned Soup garnished with Lemon Oil and Pickled Shallots
1 recipe Sweet Pea Soup (Email me for the recipe. It’s from The New Basics Cookbook)
lemon oil
2 shallots, finely chopped and covered in white wine vinegar

These soups can be served hot or cold, (even though vichyssoise is normally served cold). Have both soups at the same temperature and make sure they are of the same consistency.

Pour each soup into a small pitcher. At the same time, pour the soups into the bowl, aiming at opposite inside edges. 
X marks the spot where you pour each soup.
If they are the same thickness, they should reach the middle of the bowl at the same time.

Pour over a little lemon oil and garnish with shallots, including some of the vinegar. Carry to the table CAREFULLY.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Rice with Pigeon Peas (from Cynthia Nelson)
Printable recipe here

2 cups basmati rice
1 onion, chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbls. vegetable oil
1 can pigeon peas (or any beans)
1 can coconut milk, made up to 2 2/3 cups liquid with water (See note.)

Rinse basmati rice well. Soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain well.

Sauté onion and fresh thyme in oil. Stir in rice, drained peas and coconut milk with water. Bring to boil. Immediately cover, lower heat and simmer, undisturbed, for 25 minutes. Fluff 10 minutes after cooking. (The fluffing is very important. According to Cynthia, if you wait longer than that, the grains will stick together.)

Note: If you don’t have time to soak the rice, add 3 cups of liquid when cooking it.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Cynthia says to use any part of the chicken you like. She used thighs. (We forgot to get jalapeños, so we used pickled jarred ones and they worked fine.)

Chicken with Green Seasoning (from Cynthia Nelson)
Printable recipe here

Green Seasoning:
1 small handful cilantro
1 small handful basil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 2 inch piece of peeled ginger, chopped
2 scallions
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped

Add all ingredients to food processor. Process until smooth. Leftover seasoning paste can be refrigerated in a jar with a bit of oil poured over the top to keep it green.

For Chicken:
8 chicken thighs on the bone with skin
Worcestershire sauce
Green Seasoning

Toss the chicken pieces in LOTS of salt, Worcestershire Sauce and enough Green Seasoning to coat well. Marinate it for 20 minutes at room temperature or, covered, overnight in the fridge. Bake at 375° F. for 50 minutes.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Fish with Coconut Milk Sauce (from Cynthia Nelson)
Printable recipe here

1 1/2 lbs. white fish, like cod, haddock, hake
Green Seasoning (see recipe above)
1 onion, chopped
2 tbls. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 can coconut milk
Toss fish in a good amount of salt and a few large spoonfuls of Green Seasoning. Let sit while you prepare the sauce.

Sauté onion in vegetable oil for 2 minutes, then stir in garlic with ginger and jalapeño peppers. Add turmeric and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add cilantro and coconut milk. Bring to boil. Taste for seasoning. Add fish. Simmer until fish is cooked about 20 minutes.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

These last two recipes taught me something really valuable. I always have leftover herbs at the end of the week. This Green Seasoning is a great way to use them up. Just purée the herbs with an onion, garlic and ginger and put the mixture in a jar covered with olive oil. It can be used on chicken, fish, pasta, even scrambled eggs.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

I assembled the trifle with Cynthia in the kitchen, which was a good thing. If you’re cooking for new folks, you don’t know how boozy they like things. She assured me I could saturate the pound cake in as much brandy as I chose.

I love to poach summer fruits this way – long and SLOW. Normally, I add no sugar, but since I was cooking for others, I did add a bit this time.

Trifle with Vanilla Pound Cake, Gently Poached Plums and Rich Vanilla Custard
1 Pound Cake, (Email me for the Joy of Cooking recipe I used)
Gently Poached Plums
6 cups Rich Vanilla Custard (Email me for Craig Claiborne’s The New New York Times Cookbook recipe) or your favorite custard
To assemble: brandy or liqueur of choice
1 cup cream whipped with 2 tbls. sugar

Gently Poached Plums
2 lbs plums
1 tbl. cinnamon
optional: 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar

Cut plums in half. Remove the pit. Cut plum halves into 3 wedges. Place in heavy-bottomed medium sauce pan. Add just enough water to barely cover the bottom of the saucepan. Stir in cinnamon and sugar, if using. Bring mixture up to a simmer over medium heat. Stir well. Cover and cook over lowest heat for an hour. Every 15 minutes, stir well. The mixture should be barely simmering. Raise the heat (a bit) if you need to, but the plums should cook very gently. The longer they cook, the sweeter they get. Cool and set aside until ready to use. You can make this days in advance and freeze. Thaw before using.

To assemble:
Slice pound cake into 1/3 inch slices. Pour some brandy into glass pie dish. Place 2 or 3 pound cake slices in brandy. Don’t soak more than 2 or 3 pieces at a time or they’ll get too soggy. Break pound cake slices into about 4 pieces and place in bottom of glass bowl. Spoon over cooled (or cold) poached plums, making sure to include some of the liquid. Pour or spoon over a layer of custard. (Thick custard is great, but thinner is okay too. It makes more of a sauce.)

Continue soaking the pound cake in brandy and layering it up with the fruit and then custard. End with a layer of custard. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (I like to keep it to no longer than 4 hours. Many people leave their trifles overnight. I think that makes them too soggy.)

Before serving, place whipped cream in a large piping bag with star nozzle. Pipe cream over top. Serve with a large serving spoon. (It’s okay to refrigerate the trifle for up to an hour or two after piping on the cream.)

Note: For a stronger brandy flavor, stir in 2 tablespoons of brandy to the plums after they’ve cooled.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
I loved Cynthia’s visit and her buddy, S, was really entertaining too. Cooking with Cynthia was so fun. (The other time was spent touring around, shopping and having great Indian food.) I’m already thinking about what she should cook for me the next time she comes...


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

sounds like such fun and the recipes look beautiful. Love that soup presentation!

The green seasoning reminds me of the "random pesto" I've been known to make out of leftver herbs.

Would love to try making the fish for the hubby when I run out of fish ideas too!

Sue said...

Thanks, Rach!
You're absolutely right about the Green Seasoning. Just add some nuts and cheese and you're ready to go.

Let me know how you like the fish...

Emily said...

Holy smokes! What a meal! Everything sounds amazing.

You know I would have put away that dessert. Yum. I love that Cynthia told you to go for it with the booze! Lol.

I don't know how you pulled that off with the soups. I would have failed miserably at that. It looks amazing!

Cynthia said...

OMG, I remember that meal :) Sue, I had a blast with you and so wish that we lived next door to each other.

Love you!

I have to email you for some of your recipes :)

Sue said...

The best part was the company. A Big Mac would have been just as fun. Okay, perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration...

That would be so great! I could borrow a chicken neck from you anytime I needed to and you could have chocolate chips (and butter) if you ran out...

Email me any time. Mwwwaaahhh!