Valentine's Day 2009 Menu
February 17, 2009

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Blood_orange_salad I didn't have much of a plan when Saturday morning rolled around and I threw on some clothes to head down to the Farmer's Market.  It's been a busy month, so Valentine's Day came upon us as a bit of a surprise.  We aren't romantics, generally speaking, but it's become a bit of a tradition for me to make a Valentine's Day meal.  Normally I have some idea what I'm going to do, if not some explicit recipes, when it's time to shop.  This time, I only had one:  somehow, I was going to find a place in the menu for an egg cooked sous vide.

I got a bit of a late start because I'd spent the previous evening drinking and getting my ass kicked at various board games, which only caused me to do some more drinking.  The farmer's market was crazier than normal, which was unusual because the weather was terrible, and neither situation did anything to help my mood.  I took a slow loop through the market to assess what was available to me.  Many vendors were already packing up to leave, but there were enough that looked like they were there for the long haul, despite the threatening skies and the lateness of the hour.  

My first purchase was a bag of stinging nettles, which, here in the Bay Area, were the New Hotness for awhile.  I'm sure farmers rejoice anytime they can turn a pesky weed into a cash crop.  Though I've heard that some California farmers have to plant nettles on purpose, because they don't thrive here the way they do in other parts of the country.  What I love, though is the fact that some of the stalls have the nettles sitting in bins along with all of the other greens of various kinds, all of them unlabeled.  I keep imagining some poor soul looking for "microgreens" for an afternoon salad and sticking his hand deep into the bin.  I even waited around to see if this or some other entertainment might eventually happen, but eventually I lost interest.  In any case, I'd been seeing recipes for nettle soup and risotto popping up here and there, so there it was:  one dish down.

Since I was at the stall with the greens, I picked up some mache for a salad.  I noticed the next stall had blood oranges, which I love beyond all reason, so that was decided:  Blood Orange salad.  I bought an Asian Pear to round that out.  At a nearby vegetable stall I saw some lovely little orange turnips.  No, I don't mean rutabagas; these were actually turnips with a soft yellow-orange color somewhat reminiscent of a creamscicle.  I thought I might make a seafood stew with these, so I picked up some good looking fennel as well.

Now all I needed was the seafood for the stew, and a protein to serve with the risotto.  I dropped by the San Francisco Fish Company and picked up some stock and some miscellaneous shellfish.  On my way to the other end of the plaza, I passed by Boccalone, the new porcine concern started up by Chris Consentino of Incanto fame.  They have all kinds of things that I have made mental notes to use in the future --  lardo, guancia, salted cured pork liver -- but today it was the sanguinaccio that caught my eye.  I picked up a couple of links and jumped back out into the sea of people.  After picking up some good-looking lamb noisettes at Golden Gate meat company, it was time to head home.

Here's how it went down:

Blood Orange Salad
with Cashews and Asian Pear

This salad was extremely light and fresh, almost summery.  For the dressing, I shook together the fat from the wild boar slab bacon I cooked for use in the next dish, some rice vinegar, dijon mustard, spices, and blood orange juice, which turned out fairly well.  I'd intended to add some cheese or creme fraiche to the salad, but in retrospect, I think it turned out fine as is.  The only modification I'd make would be to toast the cashews.  

Seafood Stew
with Sanguinaccio

To prepare this dish, I sauteed the fennel until soft, added the turnips, which I'd cut to a brunoise, some salt and pepper, and sauteed until the fennel started to turn golden.  I then added a little white wine, a dash of Pernod, and a combination of lobster and veal stock, and cooked this, covered, on low for about 30 minutes.  Twenty minutes before serving I threw in the sanguinaccio and let it cook in the stew.  Five minutes before serving I sauteed the seafood in butter.  I then plated the stew in shallow bowls and placed the seafood on top.  This is a very tasty stew base and a very straightforward technique; I'm sure I'll be using it again.

Sanguinaccio is the Italian equivalent of Morcilla, which is the Spanish equivalent of Boudin Noir, which is the French equivalent of the English black pudding.  In other words, it's blood sausage.  It has a mild, rich, earthy flavor that I thought complemented the seafood stew well, where a normal sausage would have just taken over with its spiciness and meatiness.  Scientists have concluded that blood sausage is the least photogenic of all sausages, so I apologize for not including a picture, but you'll have to trust me when I say that it was very tasty and that you should head to Boccalone and get your own at your earliest convenience.

Lamb Noisette
with Nettle Risotto and Sous Vide Egg

Working with the nettles was annoying -- you have to wear gloves when handling them, and this makes the delicate work of removing their leaves, already an annoying task, take three times as long.  But they have an intriguing green flavor that make for a very interesting risotto (or, I imagine, soup, as they are often used).  I blanched them in a small amount of boiling water for about 45 seconds and then shocked them with cold water.  I then took the blanching water and cooked the stems in it for another couple of minutes.  I added some chicken stock and wine to this water and used this to make the risotto.  I ran the cooked nettles through a food processor.  I added them about 10 minutes before I thought the risotto was done, like one recipe I read suggested, but this turned out to be a mistake.  You have about three or four minutes of cooking before it starts to lose its beautiful green color, so next time I'll add the nettles far closer to serving time.  The resulting risotto was very interesting.  I can't say it's my favorite risotto, but it's definitely a useful set of flavors.  Next time I may try combining the nettles with other herbs.

SteakAnd EggsSm I've had a makeshift sous vide rig (made from a rice cooker, PID controller, and a FoodSaver) for quite awhile, but haven't been as aggressive about experimenting with it as I'd like to be.  But the ability to make eggs sous vide, it turns out, by itself justifies the necessary purchases and the room that the equipment takes up.  The texture of the egg is very difficult to describe -- luxurious and silky, with a bit more substance than a perfectly poached egg.  I'll definitely be doing this again.

A noisette is a trimmed, boned steak from the loin.  I'm not usually impressed with lamb steaks, at least the ones I've bought and tried to prepare myself, but these turned out to be very good.  I rubbed them with minced garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper, and grilled them until medium-rare.

The sauce (not pictured) was made from a reduction of red wine with rosemary, to which I added veal stock and let it reduce again, and then mounted with a buerre manie.  I then finished it with a couple of dashes of soy sauce and oyster sauce.  The wine threw some precipitate when it was reduced, but this seemed to be re-integrated when the buerre manie was added.  The sauce had great texture; it looked and tasted very professional.  I should try this again and make better notes about proportions and times.

The Wines

The early courses was served with a 1999 Lakes' Folly Chardonnay.  Lake's Folly has a special meaning to us, because we visited the winery when we were spending time in Hunter Valley, Australia.  Very few wines from the Hunter make it to the U.S., so it's very rare to run across any, much less a winery that we'd been to and loved.  But strangely, at a wine tasting last week at Dee Vine, I spied three or four bottles tucked away on a shelf.  

The last course was served with the 2005 Pride Mountain Merlot.  This wine, a balanced but commanding effort from a benchmark Napa winery, is special to us because we're holding our yearly group wine vacation in Napa this year for the first time, and Pride Mountain will be very close by.  

February 17, 2009 in menus, soups_stews | Permalink


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Sounds like good stuff. What temperature(s) and time(s) did you use for the eggs? The diminishing green color, by the way, applies to pretty much any chlorophyll green I've ever used: peas, arugula, nettles, etc.

Posted by: Barzelay at Mar 2, 2009 11:07:39 PM