We had 3 dinners lined up for Christmas this year, back to back: my sister wanted me to do a 7-course meal, we were going to do our own sushi train (not for the kiddies, but mainly for the adults), followed by a delicious porchetta by Karin. I was the first to go! The meal was supposed to be French with Japanese ingredients, I thought that some of the courses were ok, but most of them needed more work. With 2 kiddies under 4, we were trying our best to pace the dinner properly so that they the bedtimes fit in between courses. I’m not sure if they went well or not since I was pretty full before our main and was ready for bed, but of course I had to stay up and power through for dessert. Dinner started around 4:45 and ended around 12 – one of the longest I’ve been to, and keep in mind I’ve had a 100-course dinner.
To start: Bread with nori butter and uni. This was the crowd favourite, meaning that the meal goes downhill from here?! LOL! There was a variety of breads that my students helped make during the week before the break: puffed cracker dough, brioche with 75% butter, croissant cube and black garlic no-knead bread. I did the puffed cracker dough years ago for a childhood memories dinner, we did a play on a pepperidge farm goldfish as a snack. Same as before, it was pretty tasty, but had some issues with the puffing (not sure why). The brioche was pretty delicious, as it ought to be when your butter ratio is 75% to the flour. The croissant cube was super easy to do, get some raw croissant dough, chop it up and bake it in a cube. Last but not least, a no knead bread with black garlic. Perhaps future posts of this Jim Lahey no knead or the process of black garlic?
Small bites: raw Hokkaido scallops on a lobster chip, topped with a yuzu gelee and sake fureku (dried salmon flakes). This was pretty good, a single bite of deliciousness, no complaints here.
Raw: Hamachi and apple. Quick-cured hamachi (3% for 20 minutes), soy-dashi jelly and variations of apple: fresh-dice, black apple and crab apple gel. There was a discussion around which plate looked better – I was the only one who preferred the plate on the left. It definitely ate better since all the components were dispersed evenly ensuring that you get all the flavours with each bite.
Egg: Chawanmushi with ikura, a soft custard with salmon roe. I think I might have undercooked it a bit but everyone says it was fine. For the plating, I finally got around to using this egg holder and the egg shell cutters that I have bought years ago with something like this in mind.
1st main: Shio Koji Pork Belly. Lately I have been playing more and more with Koji, we love how simple it is to get a lot of flavour in. I haven’t dove into getting my own spores yet, but maybe next year. The belly was marinated in shio koji, then sous vide’d for 8 hours at 88C, fork tender. We then finished it on high heat in an air fryer with an Asian style gastrique. I also added some dashi daikon and shirataki noodles, but the result seemed forced and the dish didn’t quite come together the way I wanted it to.
2nd main: rib eye with kinpira. The rib eye was cooked perfectly with the help of a Meater thermometer, but unfortunately it was way past my bedtime and I didn’t cut it properly. It was served with a red wine jus finished seasoned with soy, sake and mirin, alongside my version of a kinpira. Note: burdock should be sliced thinly otherwise it’s very woody.
Dessert: sticky toffee pudding with gingko and lotus root. We had so many ideas for this dessert, but finally came to this. First, we didn’t have a clue what dessert we were going to make and what ingredients we were going to use. A trip to Sandown led us to lotus root and gingko. With these ingredients that we chose to highlight, we were left to figure out what would work on the plate. Typically, these ingredients are done in a sweet date soup, which lead to the idea of a date cake, which then lead to sticky toffee pudding. The lotus root was treated in the same manner as a candied chestnut where it was simmered in a sugar syrup for a few consecutive days.
Closing thoughts: feeling a little out of practice, and the whole dinner felt like it came together in a bit of a rush in the few days before. The menu planning definitely took longer than usual, and I’m finding it a lot more challenging to do planning and prep work with the baby running around. That said, it was very fun to work on something a little more elaborate than our usual weeknight meals, and the results weren’t terrible. I’m hoping to find opportunities and motivation to continue to do more of these in the new year!