Last week, we celebrated our 5 year engagement anniversary. For those critical readers out there – no, it’s not really a standard occasion to celebrate. Really, we just had a free afternoon and were inspired to cook, enjoy an extended meal, and reminisce about 5 happy years. (For the super tough readers – I did not propose on Valentine’s Day… it was President’s Day 5 years ago!)
We wanted to share our fun dinner with you – not to brag about the elegant meal we had (though it was beautiful), but to share some of the simple tricks that turned a five course dinner into a do-able afternoon/evening.
First Course: Raw Oysters with Classic Mignonette & Cod Caviar
This was one of the most simple courses, though it serves as a really striking start to a meal. The mignonette is nothing except for shallots (1/2 cup), red wine vinegar (3/4 cup), red wine (1/4 cup) and half of a small cucumber. Let it sit for a few hours and you’ve got a really bright acidity to balance the rich, sea-salty oysters. Garnish with cod caviar (very reasonable) and chives, and you’ve got a first course.
Second Course: Beef Carpaccio with Greens & Shaved Parmesan
Another really simple, yet really elegant course. We could tell you how to do the carpaccio, but Alton Brown tells you better than we can. For greens, we found some that we’d never heard of at the Buford Highway Farmers Market, one of which we think was an Asian variation of marjoram. A classic dijon vinaigrette and shaved parmesan (along with cracked pepper, of course!) and the second course is ready to go.
Third Course: Beet, Apple and Roasted Pistachio Salad
We actually got this idea from reading the menus at Per Se, though rest assured, this looks nothing like it would one of the world’s best restaurants in NYC. The flavors were great, the textures balanced each other well, and the bright colors were really appealing. For the dressing, we did another variation of a dijon vinaigrette, but added more spices and included some Szechuan chili oil to counter some of the natural sweetness of the salad.
Fourth/Main Course: Pan Roasted Sea Bass with Ancho Romesco Sauce & Melted Leeks
To be honest, there were no easy short-cuts on this course. The best advice we can give you is to go out and buy Thomas Keller’s cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home. The sauce, the leeks, and the method for the fish all came from this amazing cookbook. Keller is an all-around culinary super-star, whose restaurants include The French Laundry in Napa Valley and Per Se in New York. Noticing a trend…? (For the record, we’ve only dreamed about going to his restaurants… maybe someday…)
Dessert: Caramelized Pears a la Mode
Here’s another book recommendation: The Family Meal by Ferran Adria. It’s a collection of the recipes used for staff meals at El Bulli, one of history’s best restaurants that we can sadly only dream about. For a captivating snapshot of what El Bulli represented, we definitely encourage watching Bourdain’s No Reservations episode about his visit to the restaurant just a few short weeks before it closed.
So – that was the big meal last week! As you can tell, Mary Katherine captured it beautifully with the help of Instagram. We hope that you can use a dish or two for your next celebration meal!