Long weekend, also means a long table of food, food, and food.
Apart from the panna cotta I made over the weekend, I have also cooked up a storm and invited our good friends who I haven't seen for a long time over to our home for a lovely lunch. I've been spending a whole week trying to think of what to cook for my guests, as I want to try and cook something a little bit different from the usual Malaysian Chinese cuisine which I am sure my guests would probably have expected me to.
Hence, I decided to just go to the supermarket and pick the ingredients that I normally would not get and see what I can come up with. Consider it as the invention challenge on Masterchef. I also do not want to be slavering around in the kitchen half way through the meal, that usually what happens if I am preparing a big Chinese dinner banquet for 10 people or more! So, I've decided that the meal will have to be simple to prepare and let the oven does its job, so I can just sit down, relax and enjoy myself at the table together with friends.
I've prepared a late lunch that consists of modern/traditional European dishes, mainly Italian and French. I love Italian and French cookings but there are still so much I need to learn about the cuisines from these countries. It is so inviting when the whole house is scented with roasted garlics and onions, and thymes, and rosemary... ... ~Bellissimo!
I've prepared some bruschetta for starter. Bruschetta is so simple to prepare, and what makes a delicious bruschetta is by using fresh ingredients. I bought the Morpeth french sticks which is harder than the usual fresh baguette from the bakery which can be a little too soft to make bruschetta and get soggy. Slice them thickly, give them a good rub of garlic, then a quick toast on the frying pan over the stove on each side just to give them a nice outer crust while inside is still nice and soft. Don't put inside the oven, as the bread will go too hard like a brick. I used bocconcini cheese for its firm, elastic texture and a light creamy flavour to pair with the diced roma tomatoes which I usually found them has a sweeter flavour than the normal round tomatoes. Don't forget the basil leaves, a sprinkle of sea salt, cracked black pepper, and a drizzle of good virgin olive oil. Don't even bother to plate it, as I just served them on a baking tray that really brings out the old Italian home cooking charm just like what nonna would do.
For entree, I have prepared something a little bit fancier. I have decided to make three kind of canapes to share, they are all so tasty yet so simple to make. For the salmon and cream cheese roll, I used smoked salmon which is already thinly slices, perfect for rolling. I also added chopped dill into the cream cheese as dill and salmon goes hand in hand. The salmon roll is topped with a thinly sliced red radish which is very mild in flavour but adds the extra crunch much needed.
I couldn't find fresh figs as they are out of the season, or unless I pay high price for the imported ones. So I decided to swap it with fresh dates instead. The prosciutto-wrapped dates and gorgonzola cheese is absolutely one of my favourites with flavour so rich and intense. The sweetness of the big sticky dates from Mexico, and the pungent creaminess of the gorgonzola cheese, wrapped inside a thin slice of salty velvety smooth prosciutto - the flavour of this combination is simply indescribable. I also added a thinly sliced of golden apple for the crunch and the extra sweetness.
And the only hot canape is the prawn and chorizo with Kewpie mayo Vol-au-Vent. I used up all the puff pastry that I made leftover from the Daring Bakers' Challenge and decided to make this savoury vol-au-vent. I stole the recipe of prawn and chorizo combo from my friend, Silverlily, and I've been using it for many occasions to impress my friends. But this time, I decided to go one step further and put them inside a vol-au-vent that is filled with Japanese Kewpie Mayo. The slightly charred fresh prawns, and the spicy chorizo, with the creamy kewpie mayo inside the flakey vol-au-vent, I think you get the idea. It is ir-re-sis-ti-blé!
The main course is a simple pork shoulder roast with roasted vegetables. I keep it simple with a quick rub of salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon thymes freshly picked from my herb garden, in it goes into the oven until the guests arrived. The pork shoulder is surprisingly tender and full of flavour, but the most important part has to be the crackling. I was a little worried that I won't be able to achieve the nice layer of crackling when I noticed there is almost an inch thick layer of fat under the skin! I scored stabbed the skin as many times as possible and thank god most of the pork fat able to escape while roasting and the crackling comes out bubbly and crunchy. Happy!
I also asked my friend Big D to bring along some rosemary from his backyard, so I can use them to infuse the vegetables while roasting. I have chosen to use eschallots, lady finger carrots and red radish. This is the first time I used red radish for roasting and my friends also find it unusual but the end result is surprisingly good. It is sweet and not much of the radish flavour which most people hate. I like how the long root tip becomes a mini crispy chip.
I've also prepared two trays of gratin dauphinois as the side dish by using the recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini. When I do my research on potato gratin, cheese are called for in many of the gratin recipes. However, for a classic Gratin Dauphinois, milk and cream are the only two key ingredients for this dish, and no cheese. According Chocolate & Zucchini, and also Julia Child's recipe on eHow,
It involves mixing 2 pounds of peeled, sliced potatoes with 1 cup of milk that has been briefly boiled with 1 clove of mashed garlic and some salt and pepper. Spoon all this into a casserole, dot with 3 to 4 tablespoons of butter, and bake in a 425-degree F oven for about 25 minutes.It is the caramelisation of the cream and the starch content from the potatoes that gives it that nice golden brown crusty top. I followed the recipe to a T and the Dauphinois came out perfect! The gratin dauphinois is such a decadent side dish, the creaminess pairs so well with the roast pork. It is such a simple dish with big flavour. I definitely will make it again whenever I get a chance to do a roast.
I let The Pom incharged of the dessert, by far it is the best Tiramisu he has ever made. This time he uses a different recipe which has a few extra steps for that perfect mascarpone cream. It is so light and airy like the mousse, while the lady fingers becomes all soft and spongy nicely soaked up all the boozy Amaretto. My job is to shave the dark chocolate and sprinkle on the top. I can just do another one of this Tiramisu right now!
It is a nice lunch party to celebrate the mid Autumn festival, and also an early celebration of my birthday. Oh, there is also mooncake afterwards, and I finally got to try the Durian Mooncake, which is very subtle in flavour and I don't think much of it.
Thank you all for the birthday wishes and also the pressies. I had a great long weekend, sharing a nice meal with close friends, couldn't ask for more.