Monday, July 31, 2006

Laundry Party 2

Ei-Nyung's Haricots Verts salad. This was a test run, and is missing some parts, but it still looks pretty fantastic.

Haricots Verts

My Black Cod dish

Black Cod & Garlic Puck on Parsley Coulis

So, since I did the Cod, I'll write about that. I'll let Ei-Nyung fill in the details on her two dishes.

Basically, this was supposed to be Red Mullet, but we couldn't find Red Mullet, so we got Black Cod from Whole Foods. (Color) (Fish) was apparently the order of the day. The recipe basically consists of five parts:

  • The Fish
  • The Parsley Salad
  • The Garlic Chips
  • The Palette d'ail Doux
  • The Parsley Coulis

The fish was actually remarkably straightforward. 1/8" of canola oil in a pan (we subbed vegetable oil, since we forgot to pick up canola), and fry the fish, skin side down (skin removed on the black cod, unfortunately) for 1 minute. Flip, and "kiss" the other side, for a total of about 1:30 cooking time. That's it. Oh, it was seasoned with salt & white pepper. I wish it had at least had the skin, because a lot of the appeal is the cripsing of the skin as it fries. Alas. Next time, I suppose.

The Parsley Salad was pretty straightforward - parsley leaves, good olive oil (the McEvoy Ranch olive oil that we got from the ferry building, in this case), salt, pepper, and some shallot.

Ei-Nyung sliced the garlic for me with a peeler. They basically got boiled, then shocked in milk three times, to mellow out the twang of the garlic, before getting a bath in 300 degree oil for supposedly 12 minutes. The first shot, I'd overheated the oil to ~350. I figured, well, that's a pretty standard frying temperature, so I tossed in a handful of the chips. Well, the problem is that there was so little mass in the chips that it did nothing to cool down the oil. Even though I'd pulled the pan from the fire, it was too hot, and the garlic crisped up in about 30 seconds. The recipe had said ~12 minutes at 300, so I let the oil cool down, and tried it again. The results were as they said, but honestly, I couldn't really taste much difference between the two. The garlic got browner than they'd suggested, I think, but the good thing was that because of the milk soaking, they weren't bitter - they just had a carmelized garlicky flavor.

The parsley coulis was pretty straightforward. It took a while to strip five bunches of parsley, but then the leaves & small stems were blanched in a huge pot of salty water, then shocked in an ice bath. After wringing out all the water from the leaves, they got tossed in a blender with enough water to get it all going. Why'd I wring them out before? Whatever. After blenderizing, the now Incredible Hulk-looking mass got drained in a fine strainer, to remove excess water. That whole thing stuck around in the fridge 'till the day of the party, when it got mounted with 2tbsp of butter. The recipe recommended Beurre Monte, but since it was only two tablespoons, regular, unprepped butter sufficed. This turned out quite impressive, I think - very fresh, an incredible green, and such a bright, punchy flavor. Ah, there was some salt there, as well, added as the butter was added, to taste. Good stuff. I think I hadn't drained it *quite* enough, because when I plated it, it was a touch thinner than I'd expected. Live and learn - I think as a sauce, this is supposed to be thicker than I'd originally expected.

Ah, the Palette. Or, as we called 'em, the garlic pucks. These we did the night before, because they needed freezing time. Basically, it's a whole bunch of hard boiled egg yolks, cream, and garlic that's been boiled three times then mashed. A lot of garlic - four heads of garlic, for a concoction that fit in our mini-food processor. (for processsing mini-foods, of course) The boiling basically cut off the harsh tones of the garlic, and the resulting mashed mess was remarkably subtle, airy, and delicate - the combined flavor was unlike anything I'd had before - I could imagine making scrambled eggs with the neutralized garlic, or an omelette - it'd be quite extraordinary. This, though, was destined for something else. Spread out on cling film, and tossed in the freezer. The next day, we cut them out into 1.5" discs with ring cutters, then dipped in cream, panko, cream again, panko again. Stupidly, this is one part where I misread the recipe - it's supposed to be flour, cream, panko, cream, panko. This'll have repercussions later.

So, back in the freezer they went. These things were incredibly, incredibly delicate. Picking them up, you had to pick them up like you're picking up... oh, I dunno - if someone handed you a disc of ice cream on a hot day, and said, "don't let that lose its shape," it wouldn't be too dissimilar. But I managed to get all the pucks breaded and back in the freezer without too many problems. Here is where I actually made a relatively smart decision. We had a choice of either making 10 large-ish discs from the mixture we had (~2" discs), or about sixteen 1.5" discs. I went with the 16 1.5" discs, because I thought I'd need some testers, given how freakishly fragile this ended up being. And that was a really good thing, because cooking them was nigh-disastrous.

I'll digress for a second here - when we decided to throw this thing, I figured we'd end up with one or two things that turned out well, and that everything else would in some way be a minor or even major disaster. This was, to me, part of the wacky fun - to see how we'd get bamboozled by recipes that were more complicated than anything we've cooked before. To my very pleasant surprise, everything everyone brought, without exception, was extraordinary. Clearly, people had spent a lot of time and effort doing things *right*, and holy crap, am I glad in that context that in the end, I didn't fuck this up completely. And we have some incredibly awesome friends.

The first disc I tried to cook, I cooked in too much oil. I'd misjudged how deep the oil was, and instead of coming halfway up the puck, it was bascially being deep fried. The oil started to bubble, and *stay* bubbled, which I thought was odd. It bubbled enough that I could no longer see the puck in the oil. And so I reached in with a spatula, and gently pulled it out. It was about maybe .75" in diameter now, which means the bubbles must have been the protein in the egg yolk getting cooked by the hot oil as it broke apart. Hooray. Ok, so the oil was too deep, right? Shallow oil, no problem. I tried another in shallower oil, and had much the same result.

Hotter? No. Colder? No. Four down, 12 to go, and I had to have 10 that worked. I tried dumping out the oil, and just leaving enough to have a very thin coat on the pan. Put in puck number 12, and it began to cook. Bingo. Ripping hot, it browned the outside before it could fall apart, giving the panko the structure it needed to keep the puck intact. Nicely mottled on one side, flipped it over, and finished the job.

For the actual cooking of the pucks at dinner, the first six were slightly undercooked (all done in one batch), but good enough that they were served. I was worried about them breaking up if I tried to flip them again, frankly. The second batch were perfect.

Assembly was odd, because the pieces of black cod weren't uniform, or as thin as they appeared in the picture that accompanied the recipe. Supposed to be two pieces of fish, criss-crossed, but the size made it a bit difficult to get it all to stay. The parsley coulis went into the ring cutter, set in the center of the plate. The puck on top of that, two piece of fish on top of that, a few leaves of the parsley salad, and a couple garlic chips. Voila.

About four bites of food. Six hours of prep.

Good times.


Blogger h said...

For those of us with human sized mouths, it was more like two dozen bites. Well worth 6 hours of effort by you! :)

7:28 AM  
Blogger ei-nyung said...

:D I know! I swear he can unhinge his jaw to eat.

10:54 AM  

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