Is it wrong to use food as a reward? I mean, everyone has got everything these days. How do you say ‘well done’ in an extra special way? Beautiful baubles? Tantalizing tchotchkes? Nyet! Food is the answer. What says ‘I love you and thank you for being exemplary human beings’ better than Thomas Keller’s Five-Spice Roasted Lobster with Port-Poached Figs and Beurre Monté? Nothing else, really. So I set out to reward two individuals that I hold dear with a full-out extravagant gourmet feast.
First up was the recipe on the cover of the December 2014 LCBO Food & Drink Magazine: Beet and Ricotta Ravioli with Browned Butter and Fried Sage. Beets form both the filing and the sauce for this meatless appetizer. Note that we were three-quarters of the way through eating the dish when I remembered that it was to be served with a wine-beet sauce that took me over 45 minutes to prepare. Sigh. Fail. Thankfully, the recipe offered wonton wrappers as a time-saving cheat. The toasted brown butter and the crumbled fried sage really brought out the earthy and flavourful beet-ricotta-nutmeg filling. I will be making this dish again. It gets a rating of WOW!
Next up, the ever-impressive but oh-so-easy Breadbox Smoked Mackerel with Toasted Celery Chutney, also from Food & Drink Magazine This dish always garners the ‘How do you make a box out of bread?’ question. Easy. Take a Pullman bread. Cut the ends off. Divide the loaf into 4 sections to make 4 boxes. Remove the crusts. Toast each side in a skillet. Cut off the tops. Hollow out the center and you’re done! Drop in some crème fraiche, fresh chives, some smoked mackerel and a dollop of homemade chutney and you got yourself a swoon-worthy showstopper. The leftover chutney can be used with roast pork, in sandwiches or on toast.
Up next? Thomas Keller’s Five-Spice Roasted Lobster with Port-Poached Figs and Beurre Monté. Thomas Keller, he of French Laundry and Per Se fame, is a culinary god. This dish is my frequent go-to for big celebratory occasions. Buttered lobster sprinkled with a mixture of pungent spices (coriander, cloves, cinnamon, etc.) served alongside a port-poached fig, coffee and chocolate sauce. The most beautiful element of this dish is the sauce. The chocolate and coffee give it complexity and depth, with a bitter undertone. The coffee and chocolate counteract the sweetness of the figs, while the fruit gives the sauce its body. Genius.
The last dish of the night was a Sweet Corn Panna Cotta with Fresh Blueberry Compote from Food & Wine Magazine. This panna cotta recipe has a lovely deep corn flavour and a luscious, lemony blueberry compote topping. Using fresh sweet corn in a creamy, silky panna cotta makes for an unexpected and delicious dessert. Make sure you leave yourself enough time as the panna cotta needs to be chilled overnight.
So there you have it. Giving thanks the best way I know how: with food. These wonderful peeps do so much for those lucky enough to be in their universe. I can’t really afford expensive baubles, pricey tchotchkes, or to fly them out to Napa Valley. But cook them a nice meal? It was the least I could do.