As has become my normal practice, the photo journalizing of the meal was erratic at best.
I started of by creating an aperitif. I was inspired by those we had at Italian restaurants in Amsterdam. The Italians love bitter things and have a host of vermouth like products that tend to the bitter side...some substantially so. I combined one part of one of these bitter sweet vermouth with two parts orange juice and two parts sparkling water which all agreed came out pretty nice.
For my first course, I did a riff on the asparagus and ham dish we had in Belgium. As luck would have it, I still had some of the Ardennes ham I brought back with me. I made a mayonnaise with walnut oil and lemon juice. I was particularly pleased with the subtle flavor difference the walnut oil made over using olive oil which I usually do.
I was particularly pleased with my second course, a fusion dish using French techniques with Southeast Asian flavors. It was an expansion of something I've done for our regular meals with a sauce to take it to a higher level. The basic concept was a sauteed fish filet with a cream deglazing sauce. But the twists were as follows. I marinated the fish in a coating of Thai Curry Paste loosened with some Vietnamese fish sauce.
While this was marinating, I made a side dish, a seared corn salad.
Ingredients - Shallots, corn kernels (off the cob frozen from last summer), red and green bell pepper, tarragon from the garden
Getting caramelizing on the vegs
To finish the dish, I sauteed the fish quickly, put it on a warm plate, and deglazed the pan with brandy, fish stock, and coconut milk - this took the place of cream that would be used in a normal French preparation. I was very happy with the outcome.
My third course was a variation on the theme of lasagna. In Italy there are a wide range of fillings and sauces that can be put into layers with noodles not just the tomato, ricotta, meat, mozzarella one we associate with in the US. I wanted something with a more meaty focus. So first I slow cooked some pork shoulder for 12 hours at 275 degrees until it literally fell apart. I also made a stock from veal bones (I cheated and used my pressure cooker) and used that to make a brown sauce. My cheeses were Italian Fontina and fresh Mozzarella. For a tomato component I use fresh sliced Campari tomatoes. Finally, I made my own lasagna noodles to get a very thin light pasta component. I decided to make four small personal lasagnas instead of one big one. It turned out that one of these was enough for two people.
The pasta making station
Assembled lasagnas before and after final sauce topping ready for cooking
Out from the oven
They were spot on.
Finally Wife did a great dessert making a strawberry parfait.
First she made a cream of strawberry preserves and cream cheese
When she saw the texture was not to her liking, she called in the rum reserves
No not to assuage her frustrations but to thin out the cream!
Almond cookies and almonds for crunch
The finished product